Mista returning for second season with Ottawa Atletico

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Amid all the uncertainties about where and when Atletico Ottawa could start the 2021 season, coach Mista says one thing is clear when putting together the roster.

“We don’t want robots,” Mista said in a telephone interview from his home in Madrid Thursday, after officially agreeing to come back for a second season with the Canadian Premier League soccer franchise.

“We want players who think. We want to try and sign players who accommodate our style of play, players who play inside. We want to have more control of the ball.”

It’s difficult to read too much into what Mista describes as Atletico’s “incomplete” first season.

After being idle most of the summer due to COVID-19 restrictions, Atletico finished the CPL’s Island Games bubble tournament in Charlottetown, P.E.I., with a record of two wins, three losses and two draws, narrowly missing advancing to a second round.

As limited as the schedule was, Mista says he learned plenty about his own team and the rest of the CPL, an experience which should be an advantage in 2021.

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“I’m very happy to come back,” said Mista. “The 1 ½ months (in P.E.I.) were very important. We came a long way inside the field. With maybe more time, we could have become a better team.

“For us, everything was new. If there was a normal pre-season, you have time (to develop), you would know how players respond to pressure. We didn’t have that.”

The plan is for Atletico to start signing players for the 2021 season within the next two to three weeks, but everything is subject to COVID-19 developments.

Three weeks ago, Atletico strategic partner Jeff Hunt told Postmedia the franchise is optimistic that games will be played in front of fans at TD Place in the spring.

Whether than comes to pass depends on how well the city, province and country have contained the virus, along with the health and safety restrictions that will be in place.

Last year, Atletico’s plans for a grand debut took a wild twist when COVID-19 became real. In March, the club was only days into its training camp in Madrid — home of Atletico’s parent squad — when players and staff hurried to get to Canada before borders were shut down.

The players worked around the recreational restrictions in Ottawa for five months before finally playing in Charlottetown.

The plan for 2021 is to once again kick off the season with a training camp in Madrid.

“We hope,” said Mista. “There’s a high restriction of mobility here, but there are fewer cases here than a month ago.”

kwarren@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren