By Jon Hopkins
The Patron Saint of the Dub, Miguel Acosta, has been an Ottawa staple since the day he was signed to the roster in May of 2021. He has continued to grow into a player who excites on the pitch, and after his 2021 and 2022 performances, he now leads the team as one of its captains. While he has given impressive showings in the past, his 2023 has been something special.
But in a year with standouts like Ollie Bassett, how can a player who has struggled so much at times this season be given the golden scarf? Well, dear reader, that struggle is a key reason why Acosta is such a special player.
The biggest failure of management this year was not acquiring a central defensive midfielder before the season began. It was a key spot needing filling after losing Abdou Sissoko in the offseason, but whatever plans had been made clearly fell through. The question on everyone’s mind was how we would manage without a natural 6, and the answer was... Not great.
However, when there is a defensive gap on the pitch, one player steps up to meet the team's needs, and that is Miguel Acosta. Having never played the position, Miguel answered the call and worked week in and week out to adjust to something that seemed an impossible ask. Another positional crisis arose this season, as seemingly everyone able to play left-back was injured one after the other. While he has at least played left-back in a professional setting in the past, it remains a fairly small sample of Miguel’s offerings. Nonetheless, he once again stepped up and became the left-back we needed to press on.
In fact, to date, Acosta has only actually played as a true right-back for 5 of his 22 appearances. However, it is a statement of his skill as a defender and his value within the team that he is the first person we turn to whenever there is a defensive gap. His versatility and willingness to confront these challenges show an admirable depth of character.
Has Miguel’s season been a perfect one? Not in the slightest. He has fought injuries, been forced out of his comfort zone, and struggled at times to adjust to the demands made of him. Nonetheless, in facing each challenge, Acosta rose to meet them head-on and managed to give a decent performance in every outing. Statistically, he is 2nd in the league for tackles won at 42 (4 behind Kwak Min-Jae of Vancouver FC), and has also provided 1 goal and 2 assists. While these are not numbers that will blow off any doors, and in other defensive stats, he is fairly unremarkable, this has all been accomplished while playing across numerous positions, most often away from his natural role on the pitch.
It is one thing to be a consistently great player in your position. Such is the case for other defenders across the league like Daan Klomp and Dan Nimick (the two front runners for defender of the year); however, it takes a truly special player to step up defensively to meet the needs of the team wherever they are and to work and grow into those positions. Doing so may make his numbers less impressive and make it seem like he is contributing a bit less and performing a bit worse. However, playing out of position like that also shows just how valuable that player is and how much they are willing to work for the good of the team.
Miguel has also embraced the fans who sing his name. At the end of every game, we are sure to see Miguel come to the dub and thank supporters, often shaking hands with Capos, signing autographs, and interacting with fans in the Dub and beyond. He has continued to reflect the love and passion for the game that we in the stands have right back at us. It is for all this and more that San Miguel Acosta is more than deserving of the 2023 Golden Scarf.
Jon Hopkins is a fresh face on the pro-football fandom scene, being introduced it through Atlético Ottawa and the CPL. He grew up playing the beautiful game through his high school years in the Niagara Region. He has worked to support the growth of footie in Ottawa with CCSG since 2022 and now acts as the lead editor for the Writers at CCSG.