Atlético Ottawa faces tight deadlines to build roster for spring debut

A former sprinter, Fernando Lopez is no stranger to moving fast.

But the international expansion manager for Atlético Madrid knows he has to go a long way in a very short time in building expansion Atlético Ottawa ahead of the mid-April start of the Canadian Premier League.

Unveiled Feb. 11, Atlético Ottawa is slated to open training camp in Madrid in the first or second week of March. As of now, the team has a coach and stadium but has yet to announce a player signing.

Atlético Ottawa opens play April 18 against defending champion Forge FC at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field as the CPL kicks off its second season. Ottawa’s home opener at TD Place Stadium is May 16, against HFX Wanderers FC.

Atlético already runs or owns teams in China, France, India, Israel and Mexico, which the 33-year-old Lopez has spent the last year overseeing. All but the Mexican team — Atlético San Luis — were already in existence when Atlético Madrid took over.

“It is true that we have done this before but we are a little bit stressed because (CPL) competition will start very soon,” said Lopez, a former Spanish 200-metre indoor sprint champion.

“And we have a little bit of a lack of knowledge about the competition, other teams having been here for one season. They already have all their players, they know the country, they know the distances, they have the expertise.

“Yes football is the same everywhere but we need to be flexible, to know the culture, to adapt to the country. This is going to take some time for us.”

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