Winter of Fernando gets even Colder: ATO signs Manny Aparicio

Winter of Fernando gets even Colder: ATO signs Manny Aparicio

The CPL’s most prominent, winter-long, transfer saga has finally reached its conclusion. 2-time CPL Player of the Year nominee Manny Aparicio has put pen to paper on a 2-year contract with Atlético Ottawa, with an option year. The announcement follows a wild amount of speculation over the past weeks, with pictures emerging of the 28-year-old midfielder attending the March 17th Atlético San Luis fixture against Pachuca with the rest of the ATO side, who have been conducting pre-season in San Luis Potosi ahead of the 2024 season. 

A graduate of the TFC academy, Aparicio bounced around the 3rd and 4th divisions of the Spanish football pyramid after his release from the MLS side before signing with the then York9 FC in 2019, spending two seasons with the club before his move to Pacific. It was there Aparicio established himself as a marquee name in the Canadian Premier League, winning the North Star Shield in 2021, and, as mentioned previously, being nominated for the CPL Player of the Year award in 2022 and 2023. In his 5 seasons in the league, the CPL original has amassed 113 appearances while managing to score 14 goals in all competitions. 

The acquisition of Aparicio marks what will likely be the final piece of the puzzle in the overhaul Atlético Ottawa has conducted in the attack and midfield this offseason. Aparicio will surely be a focal point alongside his former teammate Ollie Bassett, and the inimitable Alberto Zapater in the middle of the park, as Atletico Ottawa looks to improve on a midfield that, particularly late in the 2023 season, had a tendency to be overwhelmed and did not make a tremendous impact on the game state in possession. 

Despite having made overtures to Aparicio much earlier in the offseason, the journey towards getting his signature was filled with twists and turns, some expected and others perhaps not so much. Initial speculation into the future of the Buenos Aires born midfielder, as reported on by John Jacques at Northern Tribune, had the Canadian MLS sides tabling offers for his services, as well as interest emerging from South America as well, opportunities that would have been difficult to turn down if the situation had been ideal. 

Other CPL sides were also looking to offer a premium for his services, as his reputation within the league speaks for itself. Reporting from Josh Healey at Wanderers Notebook in December noted that multiple multi-year offers were on the table that would make Aparicio the highest paid player in the league. Halifax was the only club explicitly mentioned in the report, but it would be foolish to think that any other club who had the space and funds wouldn’t be lobbying for Aparicio’s services. Given recent discussion proliferating about the nature of the salary cap, and the compliance thereof, the delay of this announcement so late into the pre-season may be explained by someone not being altogether convinced that the litany of signings made by Atlético Ottawa this offseason would allow for such a player to come in under the cap. 

Of course, such reckless speculation is now moot as the deal for Aparicio’s services has become official, and the 28-year-old will be spending the next 2 seasons in the nation’s capital. It’s a signing you have to make given the opportunity, as Aparicio has been a real driving force in the middle of the park for three seasons at Pacific. While it may not have worked out the first time, possibly due to the style of play employed by Pa-Modou Kah, the emergence of Ollie Bassett makes it difficult to see how the pairing of Bassett and Aparicio with, what will likely be, Zapater sitting behind them wouldn’t take the league by storm. 

My questions regarding this signing don’t come from the player himself, but more so the situation around the club, as it has been for many signings that have come through the doors this winter. First, what is going to happen with Gabriel Antinoro? A young player that I felt showed a lot of promise falls further down the depth chart in midfield, and with a plethora of options in his secondary position of left wing, I fail to see how he will get much game time outside of required minutes to meet the minimum u21 threshold, something that will seemingly be carried by Tyr Walker.

My other concern is the tactics that are going to be employed this season, and whether or not we can take full advantage of our strength in midfield. If we are only going to run with 2 central midfielders, I don’t think it’s realistic to be able to have Bassett and Aparicio together, as that leaves a bit of a gap defensively. Combine that with the fact that essentially all the new signings would be classified as “ball dominant” and there only being one ball to share amongst all of these weapons, sacrifices are going to have to be made for greater team glory.

Ultimately, those two concerns are the best types to have. Any football club would be chomping at the bit to have a selection dilemma of too many players wanting playing time and to be the one controlling the pace of the game. My excitement for having Manny Aparicio don the red and white in 2024 is palpable. For the first time I’m really starting to believe all the hype that the collective CPL community has placed on this Atlético Ottawa roster. There’s still a couple of holes left to fill, particularly with the announcement that Jonathan Grant will miss the 2024 season, but the solutions that have been found this off-season feel much less patchwork than 2023. There’s a plan in place, it’s been followed, and hopefully this means we can take more than half the points on offer at home this season.

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.

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