Pandemic challenges test OSU in its otherwise successful PLSQ debut

Danny Assaf. File photo

By Elio Elia

Despite the onslaught of challenges presented to its teams by COVID-19 in their debut in Quebec’s top soccer league, Ottawa South United’s (OSU) general manager says the club’s inaugural season was a success.

“We were pleased,” Jim Lianos said about his club’s entry-season to the Première Ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ), which he called a “very competitive league.”

“Ultimately that was what we wanted for our teams and that was a positive from the players’s per-spective,” Lianos added. 

OSU’s men’s team finished in 2nd place overall in the PLSQ. The team tied their first two matches of the season before rallying off four consecutive wins. Their only loss of the shortened season came against AS Blainville by a score of 3-2, in what was both teams season finale. Had OSU’s team beaten AS Blainville, which was one of the teams it tied earlier in the year, they would have placed 1st in the league.

OSU announced its departure from League1 Ontario for PLSQ in January, long before the COVID-19 pandemic was a consideration.

Lianos said it made “a lot more sense” financially for both coaches and players to switch leagues, given that most of their games would take place in Montreal instead of Toronto, where they played a significant amount of the time while in League1. 

According to Lianos, there were some fears within the club that the PLSQ may not be as competi-tive as League1, but those were quickly put to bed once the season started.

The league’s season started late and was eventually cut short because of the pandemic. 

Despite the uncontrollable hiccups of its inaugural season in the PLSQ, Lianos says he believes switching leagues will be key for OSU’s future.

While the pandemic created a void for many of his club’s players – who typically would have been much more involved with soccer this summer – Lianos was thankful the PLSQ at least opened up the opportunity for some to compete this summer.

“I think we were lucky to get an exemption to get to play in a Quebec league, and being in the league we were the only club from Ontario to play in a competitive league so that was positive,” he said.

OSU’s top women’s team also moved to the PLSQ. The women’s team season only ran four games long because of the pandemic.

In order to make it through the season, Lianos said the club created a “bubble” for its teams. 

“They had to play and train within their own bubble, and we made sure everyone was doing the right thing. Before training everybody (did) a self-assessment, before leaving for Quebec everybody had to do a COVID test and would do so every 2 weeks, so that worked out,” he said.

Lianos says OSU will be back in the PLSQ again next season, where they plan to be competitive during what will hopefully be a more normal season.

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