On December 23rd, Atlético Ottawa made a duo of announcements, officially sending goalkeeper Nathan Ingham and midfielder Ollie Bassett to Atlético de San Luis on trial for the Clausura season.
Liga MX operates by playing two annual tournaments; the Apertura season, followed by the Clausura season. Both Ingham and Bassett will join San Luis at the start of the Clausura season, which kicks off on January 13th for San Luis, when they play Guadalajara. The trial is set to expire at the end of the season, with the last game coming on April 29th, against Atlas.
Obviously, for a league as young as the Canadian Premiere League, this comes as big news, but it also comes with some drawbacks locally.
Starting with the obvious, both players are exceptionally deserving of the chance to move up in the footballing world, after a tremendous season with Atlético Ottawa. Bassett, of course, is coming off a 2022 season where he was awarded the CPL’s Player of the Year award, while also winning the Player’s Player of the Year trophy. Ingham was also recognized for his superb season, being nominated for the CPL’s Golden Glove award, making more saves than any other keeper, and keeping nine clean sheets.
In North America, Liga MX is known as the best league on the continent, and the ability for two CPL players to have the chance to prove their worth, by skipping the MLS tier, is important for the CPL. Players want to go to a league that can serve as a launching point for their careers, and things like this prove that the CPL is capable of being just that.
“As a player, you always want to be playing at the highest level that your game and ability can take you, so I’m extremely excited to have been presented with such an opportunity,” said Bassett. “It’s probably ranked as the best league in North America, they have produced top players and some that have just returned from the latest World Cup. I can’t wait to head there and test myself against some of the best players and see how I fare.”
Another positive from this deal, perhaps on the selfish side, if you are Atlético Ottawa, is that if one or both of Bassett and Ingham do come back to the nation’s capital for the CPL season, they will return more experience, and if everything goes to plan, better players. That’s a good thing for many reasons, but here are the two main ones. One, if they come back and play, Ottawa will be a better team for it, possibly helping them continue their upward swing, and capture the North Star Shield. Secondly, if they come back better, their value goes up, and when Ottawa does eventually elect to sell them, they’ll make a little bit more money.
Of course, everyone knows why more money is a good thing, it doesn’t really need an explanation. Every time a CPL team can sell a player and make a little bit of cash, it’s a good thing.
Finally, there’s one more somewhat selfish positive for Atlético in this deal, but not just Atlético Ottawa. Deals such as this one show that the partnership between Atlético de Madrid, Atlético de San Luis, and Atlético Ottawa is working as everyone had hoped. The entire purpose of the partnership is player development, and that’s exactly what’s happening.
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At 24, no one is suggesting that Bassett is on the path to playing for Madrid, but the former member of the Aston Villa youth academy is clearly on an upward trend in the football world. It’s the same with Ingham, and at 29, he’s likely heading toward an MLS transfer if he continues to show his quality if he gets a chance with San Luis.
The point, however, is not just for Bassett and Ingham. In the event that the next Canadian diamond in the rough finds himself in the CPL, and with Ottawa in particular, he will have the chance to grow at his own pace, not being tied down. Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say.
As great as the positives are for both the players and the club, there’s no hiding that losing players with the quality of Bassett and Ingham has its drawbacks. Starting with the obvious, neither player will be back on time for the start of the CPL season, unless the league suddenly decides to start a month later than normal. Last season, Atlético was already four games into their season by the end of April, but had the opening week of April off. Without Ingham and Bassett, they would certainly be an undermanned squad to start the season,
It’s likely that Carlos Gonzalez will have some kind of temporary solution in place to ensure Ottawa takes at least some points out of their first four or five games, because of they can’t, it has the chance to seriously derail the season, and possibly steal a chance to finish as the league’s top seed.
When they do return, there’s no predicting how long it could take for them to be match ready, especially if one or both of them don’t see the pitch often with San Luis. It’s possible that it could take a couple of weeks before either of them are truly ready to get going, only adding more games where Atlético needs to cope.
The biggest negative, however, comes for the fans. Whether you are a casual fan who started watching games because Ottawa played host to the CPL Final, or you have been a hardcore fan since the days of the Ottawa Fury, losing good players is always difficult, especially when it seemed like the casuals were just starting to find a grip on Atleti.
It’s an unfortunate reality for the CPL right now; they are a feeder league. The best players are only here temporarily, and you have to appreciate them while you have them, and hope you can find someone to replace the. Look no further than what has happened elsewhere around the league, with Diyaeddine Abzi leaving York United, William Akio leaving Valour, Aribim Pepple leaving Cavalry, or Alejandro Díaz leaving Pacific.
Overall, This is a Good Thing
As much as it stinks for fans to miss some of their favourite players, moves such as these ones are what is going to propel the CPL forward. As mentioned, the CPL is a development league, and they should embrace that, because it can serve as a great place for young Canadians to get their start, but for internationals, why do they want to come here? If they can see moves like these happening, they will be more inclined, and can only help the league in the long run.
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