IN FOCUS: Reggie Laryea, following his brother’s footsteps but not in his shadow.
What Atletico Ottawa fans can expect from “A simple, direct player with a winning mentality.”
A hint of disappointment but a huge sense of pride was the overwhelming feeling when we spoke to York Lions coach Carmine Isacco about Atletico Ottawa’s signing of Reggie Laryea in this year’s U Sports Draft.
“Whether it’s that last-ditch tackle in the box or an 80-yard run to get in a cross for a striker, he is just a selfless worker and will play for his team.” These were Carmine Isacco’s parting words when we asked him to sum up Ottawa’s second draft pick.
Having been involved with the York University’s men’s football set up since 2007 and the women’s since 2011, Carmine Isacco has seen his fair share of footballers comes through the program, feeding into the MLS, European leagues and, of late, the Canadian Premier League.
Not only this, but Carmine was also the assistant coach for York 9 (now known as York United) in their inaugural season.
Because of this, he’s a little disappointed to see one of his players heading over to an Ontarian rival, but he believes it’s the right move for the 22-year old.
“I think Reggie’s in good hands, [there’s] a good situation in Ottawa, and we are thrilled with where he has ended up,” he said.
It’s a sentiment that was echoed by Reggie himself. Describing the moments after the draft he said, “my parents were so happy, there were lots of hugs, and my brother was also really happy for me on FaceTime.”
Speaking of the draft, Carmine said that not enough teams take it seriously and just use the players to bolster their squads, “but I think Atletico will build a team [around them], and I’m very excited to see him Ottawa.”
The Lion’s Head Coach didn’t bother with flashy adjectives when describing his former defender.
“Reggie is a very dependable, mature, coachable, all-round player.
“He’s very athletic and a good decision-maker on the ball. The kind of player that makes everyone around him better.”
Asked about Laryea’s highlights from his time with the University team, Carmine said there was not just one, but “so many consistent moments” and that his winning mentality at Nationals is where they got the best of him.
“We got so many consistently good performances and leadership moments from him.
“When people rely on Reggie, he’s at his best.”
It was in matches against Carleton in recent years where Carmine got the chance to see Laryea’s true potential as the Lions weren’t used to “not having the ball.”
“Reggie dropped off, got the team organized and coached the team into drawing Carelton into spaces or taking away the space from them.
“He was just so comfortable and made sure that everyone around him knew what was going on and where they needed to be.”
With an ability to play anywhere across the backline, Atletico Ottawa is acquiring a versatile defender.
Laryea was mainly deployed as a right-sided centre back though his preferred position is the one he shares with his older brother, and Toronto FC player, Richie Laryea.
“He fancies himself getting forward, to press high,” said Carmine. “Reggie is a player who takes accountability and responsibility.”
Asked if he thinks Atletico fans are likely to see much of Laryea in his first season at the club Carmine didn’t mince his words.
“Reggie can take the step up.
“He’s a humble kid, and I know people like Brandon [John] will keep his head on straight and hold him accountable.”
Despite his younger age, Madrid’s Canadian counterparts are gaining a player with a presence on and off the pitch as Laryea “brings people together.”
“Reggie is just the kind of guy that, whether you’re the 30th player on the squad or the second name on the team sheet he’ll make sure that you know your responsibilities and live up to them.
“He’s always lead by example.”
Though York University will do everything they can to ensure that Laryea finishes his studies, with his former coach telling us the “plan is for him to stay in the CPL and with Ottawa.”
Carmine doesn’t think it will take long for Reggie to win over the Ottawa fans, though he will be bringing his biggest fan with him as Ritchie takes every opportunity to see his brother play when he can.
“Reggie isn’t fazed by his brother’s success; he embraces it,” said Carmine.
And all the fans in the Capital will be hoping that the Ritchie will be revelling in his younger brother’s success soon too.