Gotta be Kd(S): ATO Welcomes Portugese Winger Kévin dos Santos

Gotta be Kd(S): ATO Welcomes Portugese Winger Kévin dos Santos

The latest Atlético Ottawa signing is here! The club has recently announced that they have reached an agreement with former York United winger Kevin dos Santos on a two-year contract. The acquisition of the Portuguese winger marks the 7th signing of the off-season for the club as they look to revamp a roster that, as we all know, underperformed significantly in the 2023 campaign. 

Prior to his arrival in Canada, Kevin dos Santos trained as a youth player in his native Portugal for Vitoria de Setubal. His first senior opportunity came with Tadcaster in the 7th tier of the English league system in 2019. He would then move to Darlington in 2021 where he would make 38 appearances in the Vanarama National League North (the 6th tier in England) and score 4 goals. dos Santos would depart from Darlington to the Canadian Premier League midway through the 2022 season, joining York United and making 14 appearances without scoring. 2023 would prove more fruitful for the 24-year-old, as he managed to score 6 times in his 26 league appearances, joint second with Osaze De Rosario for Atlético Ottawa’s rivals. The most notable of those goals to Atlético Ottawa fans was his 88th-minute winner in the second to last game of the season, which all but eliminated Atléti from playoff contention.

The signing of dos Santos marks the third - and depending on the position you believe Matteo de Brienne will be playing next season, even fourth - winger that has been signed for the 2024 season and beyond. While the commonly held belief among supporters is that the other two new signings, Ballou Tabla and Kris Twardek, will be starting for the club on April 13th, dos Santos’ presence in the squad should not be overlooked as he looks to compete for significant minutes in this team. As he put it: “Football is a very competitive sport… healthy competition in the team, that’s just going to make us better. My style is to be myself like I always am, and to show it to the coach that I deserve to be playing… we’re going to make each other better every day, by competing in training.”

A lack of goal-scoring and creativity from players down the wing last season contributed to an attack that often felt stagnant, particularly when the team was asked to break down a defense during extended periods of possession. At the very least this is why dos Santos feels he will be a natural fit for the new look Atlético Ottawa side: “...with the players that were brought in, and then adding myself in, hopefully just adding more direct football is all. In my position, wingers take on defenders, and honestly I see myself fitting in well, and hopefully I could be assisting or scoring, I see myself fitting in well.” 

That added directness and punch in front of goal is something he hopes will also bleed over into the relationship with the Atlético Ottawa fanbase, also joking that what will endear him to the faithful is his “cockiness, in terms of like street football…they'll enjoy from me, the freedom.” 

My expectation for our newest player is that he will more effectively fulfill the role that was asked of Gianni dos Santos, albeit in likely fewer minutes. If we take Carlos Gonzalez’s game plan from the end of the season and put it to the roster as it stands presently, I think Kevin will be spending most of his time as the inverted left winger/second striker role that exists in our attacking 3-4-3 shape. Something that he also thinks is ideal, noting: “I’m a winger, all my career I've played mostly on the left, where I feel comfortable is on the left” but also stressing that “if [the] coach decides to put me on the right, then I’ll do what I have to do on the right side. Why not, wherever I bring more to the table.”

While I do believe that Ballou Tabla will be the primary option in the role I’ve mentioned above, I think there are few better options to rotate him with than Kevin dos Santos. Watching York United last season, dos Santos always struck me as the most consistently dynamic element in an often uninspired and faltering attacking set-up. The expectation level may not be as high for Kevin as it was for Gianni last season, and hopefully that will help ease his transition to his new club. Atlético Ottawa’s first game of the season is against the Portuguese winger’s previous club York United, which could suggest something special about it, but this isn’t something he’s worried about: “Honestly, it's just another game. It's the first game, … but it's my opponent. It was home for the last year and a half, but I moved on.”

As for why he chose Atlético Ottawa, Kevin echoed what we’ve heard from many others through this off-season, a real belief in the project. “At the end of the season, Mr. Carlos and some of the staff here messaged me, showing their interest. I was so happy to hear that I had interest from a club like Ottawa. I felt like it was a perfect fit for me, for me to progress to the next level, to learn and to get better every day. After hearing the project that they had for the team, for myself, it’s a perfect fit for me.”

Despite a tumultuous end to the 2023 season, the vision that has been implemented over the course of the offseason has inspired some of the marquee free agents in the league to sign for Atlético Ottawa. While I may still have some questions about the defensively, it’s clear that there is a belief in the locker room that this team can come together and win, and that should be enough to inspire any fan to delusional levels of confidence. In the words of the latest signing, “Our goal is to be champions…That's why I came here, just to win titles.”

What more could you want?


About Patrick

Having joined CCSG in 2022, Patrick started his footie career playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros around the same time. While the first pro team he supported was Manchester United, as soon as Atlético Ottawa came to town, he was immediately on board. His wealth of footie knowledge has been a constant asset, along with his role as caretaker for Atléti Wikipedia pages.