OPINION: Atlético Ottawa's squad is starting to take shape, with seven players returning from the 2021 season. Most fans will agree that the players brought back were all stand-out performers either on or off the pitch, giving the capital-side a solid foundation for the campaign to come.
However, there are many spots still open meaning a busy recruitment period ahead. But without a coach in place to determine the type of player needed to suit their style of play, speculation is open to unfounded interpretation.
So, with all that ambiguity in mind, let's take a look at the positions that Ottawa must focus on (hint: it's all of them).
Obvious place to start, and the club know it too. Since it was announced that Mista would not return, rumors surrounding who will be at the helm in 2022 have been scarce, so much so that even those 'in the know' and the most dedicated 'sleuths' don't have any leads on who it could be.
Marc Dos Santos, former Fury FC and Vancouver Whitecaps head coach, confirmed he had meetings with club and was "extremely tempted" but said he was going in "another direction", with his new role set to be announced next week.
Atlético Ottawa have stated that no further additions will be made to the squad until a head coach is appointed "next week" too - making the lack of rumours even more surprising.
Maybe MDS is coming to the capital after all... (joking but hoping).
Dylon Powley had a very good season in the Capital last year, making the club's decision to not bring him back a little confusing. However, what is done, is done and we must look forward.
It is understood that Ottawa are in talks with 202 backup keeper, youngster Theodore Obadal, but no agreement is yet in place.
Former-York United keeper Nathan Ingham, who has been rumored as the player to take the #1 jersey for Atlético, would be a fine addition but an extra set of gloves or two will be required as well - expect news on this position next week.
Versatile full-back Miguel Acosta, and captain Drew Beckie are currently the only two recognized defenders in the 2022 squad (Zach Verhoven can play as FB or WB, though he may have been resigned as an attacking option).
Atlético Ottawa had some serious issues in defence last year and ended with the worst record in the league (47 goals conceded in 29 games), compounded by injuries and poor discipline. A move to five at the back in the final games went a long way to providing stability, unleashing the attacking potential of Verhoven at RWB too.
Whether or not a new coach will stick to that system remains to be seen but, which ever way you cut it, Ottawa will be in the market for at least two new center-backs - and one with aerial presence wouldn't go amiss. Brandon John continues his journey, recovering from an torn ACL and CCSG understands that conversations are occurring between the club and the player.
As of yet though, there are no rumours linking other defenders to the Capital, but Ottawa used both of their draft picks to bring in defenders in 2021, a tactic we could see replicated next Thursday.
Ottawa have retained the services of two players in the middle of the park, with Ben McKendry and Chris Manella.
Both players are safe in possession and are a little more defense oriented. Their profiles can be defined as 'somewhere between a #6 and a #8' (although we saw McKendry encouraged to venture forward more often at the back end of last season),
A must addition will be an imposing center/defensive midfielder who can provide some much needed protection to an often exposed defence last year.
No returning Alberto Soto and prodigy Antoine Coupland chancing his luck abroad means Ottawa will need to look for a creative player - who plays either centrally or wide - to get the strikers into shooting positions (Atlético Ottawa has the fewest shots of any team in 2021).
Valour's Keven Alemán, Pacific FC's Ollie Basset and Carton Ravens'' Matteo de Brienne (who has reportedly signed a pro-contract already - destination unknown) have all been linked with the Capital City side for the upcoming season.
Securing the services of all-time club top scorer, Malcolm Shaw, for another season is a great move by the club - not just for on field performances but in terms of giving fans hope of being able to retain some of the leagues best a brightest talents.
Combined with Brian Wright, Ottawa have two different attacking options for 2022, which an incoming coach will have to work around and find a way to give them both opportunities without lumping one out of position for most of the season.
Whether it be 'horses for courses' or finding a way to integrate them in a formation that allows for two strikers, don't expect Ottawa to be in the market for another striker this offseason (although who says no to a shiny new goal scorer?).
An area requiring strengthening overlaps with the midfield requirements - the wings.
Verhoven can do a job, though doubts still remain about his ability to play solely in an attacking position, proving more effective coming from and collecting the ball from deep.
Stefan Karajovanovic is another Ottawa-product that fans would be delighted to see in red and white next season, with HFX Wanderers confirming the 22-year old won't be a part of the roster next season. Karajovanovic's pace and technical ability was let down only by his finishing in 2021, but far from the finished article he could fit into various formation and become a real threat in the Capital.
If Ottawa are to make a move for attacking players, expect them to look for those who enjoy hugging the chalk. It's a profile of player the team has seriously lacked for the past two season with Jordan Webb, Osah Bernardinho Tetteh & Ryan Telfer all not working out for various reasons.