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CCSG by the Numbers: (Unrealistic) Targets for 2024

By Alexander Brazier Rymek

Among the many quirks of the CPL is the sheer amount of short contracts handed out, and this leads to a massive amount of turnover year over year. In addition, certain clubs are sparse with their contract details, either intentionally or otherwise. As a result, it is sometimes hard to predict whether a player will stay with a team, switch clubs, or sign in another country entirely.


That being said, in the following article I will rank the Top 10 players by WPA grade in 2023 (broken down here) who are either out of contract for the 2024 season (4 such players) or are assumed to be given no other information (6 players). Keep in mind that because these players are so good, it is unlikely their clubs allow them to walk, so this is more of a fun exercise rather than a serious scouting project - although a more realistic article will be coming forthwith. I used this publicly available CPL contract tracker website, and I also avoided players with options, because of exactly what I just enumerated. I will add a few notes detailing their strengths and weaknesses, and in the small chance they do sign with ATO, how they could fit into the roster for 2024.


#10: Mohamed Omar

To begin this list, one of the most intriguing options available on the market. After being drafted by the Colorado Rapids of the MLS, but leaving without a contract offer, Omar signed with HFX Wanderers partway through the 2022 season. Though his play on the field was wobbly, grading at a 54.9 WPA with 800 minutes of game time, he improved massively in 2023. Most eye-catching of all was his Pass%, grading as the best in the ENTIRE CPL. A throughline throughout the ATO ranking series was our players' lacklustre passing, and Omar would help remedy this. He also can play both Centre Back and Centre Defensive Midfield, two positions we lack going into 2024. Although he doesn’t provide much offensive creativity, Omar is smart with the ball, doesn’t take many fouls, and chips in defensively. He is one whose lack of contract has been confirmed, and judging by his Twitter activity, not re-signing with Halifax.


#9: Tass Mourdoukoutas

Next up is another defensive player, this time an out-and-out centre-back. The Australian came into the league in 2022 and had essentially the same statistical profile, with a 68.5 WPA grade. His one glaring weakness that season was his 10.3 Tackles rank, which he improved upon significantly in 2023. He is another player who can handle the ball at his feet, not a given with CBs, and his 88.7 Strength grade also stands out. Like Omar, he wasn’t much of an offensive threat, however his lockdown-defending helped York United into their first playoff berth in three seasons. Also like Omar, he is confirmed to be out of contract in 2024, and would be an excellent replacement for Espejo.


#8: Alessandro Hojabrpour

Hojabrpour is the first player on this list to not be confirmed out of contract, and will not be the last. At 23 he has already been in the league for five years, and can play both CDM and CM depending on the situation. Since 2020 he has improved every season by WPA grade (2023 being his best season), and during his breakout campaign in 2021 he was awarded the CPL’s Best U21 Player award. Hojabrpour’s best attribute was by far his passing, however he also made an impact defensively and chipped in with goals here and there. His worst attribute as a CDM was his low Tackles ranking, but his well-rounded play earned him a placement on this list. It was covered in the Midfielder rankings article that ATO has historically lacked good CM options, and if we were to magically pry him away from Forge this is where I would play him.


#7: Diego Gutiérrez

Gutiérrez represents at once one of the more realistic options on this list thanks to Valour’s front-office tendencies, and one of the players most suited to ATO’s style of play and needs. An offensive-minded Centre Midfielder, with an excellent Passing grade of 90.5 and a 93.4 Chance creation ranking, he is one of the most dynamic players in the CPL. He also recovered the ball well with an 83.6 Tackles mark and a 61.6 Interceptions ranking. Finally, he played almost every game for Valour in 2023, which could alleviate some of ATO’s historical injury issues, and is consistent year over year with a 75.6 WPA grade in 2022. The last player on this list for a considerable stretch who has been confirmed to be out of contract, he would be an amazing pickup for 2024.


#6: Woobens Pacius

The first Striker on this list, Pacius could solve one of ATO’s historical weaknesses by being a consistent goal scorer up top. Pacius is a poaching-type number 9, with an ability to score at will (99.4 Goals ranking), but an inability to create offence himself with a 43.7 Passing grade and a 7.7 1v1%. He did get assists, but he was fed primarily by the incredible talent around him. As noted in the Attackers article, this is something ATO lacked for the most part in 2023. Therefore, if they were to target him they would also need to add in the chance creation department on the wings and in midfield. In 2022 he graded at a 75 WPA, with essentially the same statistical outlook and slightly more minutes. Like Hojabrpour, it is unlikely he would leave Forge for another CPL team, as evidenced by the apparently declined opportunity to do so last year, however like everyone on this list he would be a great addition to ATO’s roster.


#5: David Brazão

Representing the midpoint on this list is probably the least statistically powerful entry. With only 340 minutes played, it would be hard to say Brazão was given enough time to solidify these rankings as concrete talent. That being said, when he did play he was electric and incredibly well-rounded. Given the fact his contract status has only been assumed, and that it is unlikely Pacific give up on a talented 22/23-year-old so quickly even if he is out of contract, I wouldn’t hold my breath on him being available on the market at all.


#4: Thomas Meilleur-Giguère

The first former Ottawa Fury player on the list, TMG was an incredible player for Pacific in 2023. He was amazing with the ball at his feet, posting a 93.4 Pass% ranking, extremely press-resistant with a 85.9 1v1% mark, and had a massive defensive impact with a 94.3 grade in that category. He posted almost no weaknesses relevant to his position, the slight exception being his 48.5 Interceptions ranking, and was a rock beside Amer Didic. Together they formed the second-best defence in the CPL, and Meilleur-Giguère was a big part of that. He actually improved from an impressive 73.1 WPA rating in 2022 (and has been improving since 2021), with a large part of that increase being his better passing metrics. Even though, like every Pacific player on this list before and after him, his contract status is unknown, the connection to Ottawa is obvious if he were to leave Pacific.


#3: Adonijah Reid

Unlike Meilleur-Giguère, who signed with Pacific as soon as the Fury folded, Reid took a more circuitous route. However, in his first season he impressed for the CPL Shield winners. He played slightly fewer minutes than average, but in those games he was a dynamic offensive threat, with an 88.3 G/A rating and a 98.2 in Chance Creation. Similar to Woobens Pacius, he was a goal-scoring threat first and foremost, although he posted good 1v1% and Cross% numbers, which points towards a little more offensive creation for himself and his teammates. Naturally, he would also solve the massive hole at Striker that ATO have had since their inception. Even though he was only loaned to the Fury, I’m sure he would be welcomed back with open arms if he decided to return (granted his contract status is unknown at this point in time).


#2: Klaidi Cela

Perhaps a surprising placement when considering the other Centre Backs on this list, Cela rates so highly because of his ridiculous 95.8 Defending grade. Along with his 82 and 81 Duel% and Aerial% rankings respectively, he is the prototypical stay-at-home CB. Considering this, he might not make as big a singular impact as say a TMG or a Mourdoukoutas would, however if he is brought in alongside a ball-playing partner he could thrive. Even so, he doesn’t have terrible passing metrics, can contribute offensively, and is very press-resistant with a 93.6 1v1% ranking. Cela has had an inconsistent CPL career thus far, starting in 2019 with Forge FC, however that was due to his very limited game time. This being his first season with more than 300 minutes, he proved he was a valuable asset when given the chance. The last player on this list with a verifiable lack of contract, and with Cela only being 24, he would be a very important addition for 2024 and for the future, if Valour decline his option.


#1: Amer Didic

It goes without saying how much of a monster Didic was in 2023, and throughout his entire career. He defends the net amazingly, is incredibly strong off the ball and with it at his feet, can score goals, and can put in a tackle with the best of them. Naturally, he also had an amazing 2022, where he ranked 1st in the league with a ridiculous 90.4 rating. Every single CPL club would pounce on even the slightest possibility of adding him to their roster, and ATO is no exception. Like every Pacific player on this list however, his contract status is unknown (although rumour has it he is actually out of contract), and he might be looking for a challenge elsewhere, like Zator before him. Even if he was a free agent, as long as he wants to return to Pacific, there’s no way they turn him down.


FINAL NOTES:

Paradoxically, the higher a player ranks (and therefore the better they are), the less likely they are to be released by their club. In addition to this, the sheer amount of Pacific and Forge players ranked, of whose contract we aren’t even sure of, makes this list even more unrealistic. So will any of these players actually make their way to Ottawa? Probably not. They’re in good situations, for the most part, and are playing well with good game time. Among this list, I think that Reid and Gutiérrez are the most likely to switch clubs at all, let alone join ATO. Omar is also looking like he won’t be playing with HFX next season, and if he stays in the CPL he would be a no-brainer. If any good players were to be released, I believe they would fall more in the 65-70 WPA range, and that doesn’t even account for any reclamation projects ATO might want to undertake.


Thus, there are plenty more players outside the Top 10, or even the Top 25, who would make sense for us next season, and would actually stand a chance of being signed by Ottawa. The next article will be about these players, those who represent slightly more realistic transfer targets. I think if ATO can plan out their winter to avoid panic buying, which they did in 2023 when their top options fell through, they will be in a much better position to challenge for silverware.


 

About Alexander:

When he isn't busy playing or watching sports (or going to school at uOttawa), Alexander is busy managing his Atlético Ottawa database, which he started in 2020, and tracks everything you can think of about the club and its players. He also runs a Twitter account dedicated to analyzing and rating CPL players using statistics, CPL by the Numbers.








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