–By Ottawa Sportspage, for OSU Force Academy
A sold-out crowd packed the Conference & Event Center for Ottawa South United Soccer Club’s annual competitive banquet to celebrate an ever-growing number of OSU championships and next-level player feats.
But OSU President Bill Michalopulos pinpoints a different type of acknowledgment that sticks out for him as a defining moment this year, emblematic of the club’s rise.
In town for a match with Brazil, the Canadian women’s national team wanted to play a game against a quality side to help them prepare to face one of the best squads in the world, so they asked if a top OSU boys’ team could play them a few days before their friendly.
“Having the national team recognize our organization meant a lot to us,” underlines Michalopulos, who’s served as President since the club was founded in 2003. “And we were so happy to see that they went on and won.”
89 OSU grads playing varsity soccer
There were many signs of success for the club’s programming this season, perhaps none bigger than the number of OSU alumni competing for university/college soccer teams across North America – approaching triple-digits with a count of 89 this fall.
That stands as a testament to OSU’s College Prep Program, in operation since 2015 under the guidance of local university coaches David Bellemare (uOttawa) and Dom Oliveri, Jasmine Phillips and Aaron Falsetto (Carleton).
“It’s so special when we see our athletes become student-athletes all over Canada and the United States,” Michalopulos highlights. “This impressive number illustrates the overarching goal of our Force Academy – to help each and every player reach their ultimate goals in the game.”
Club boosts players into pro ranks
Numerous OSU products are now living their soccer dreams in the pro setting. A pair of players who joined OSU’s Ontario League One squad to help in their pursuit of playing professionally (Jared St. Thomas & Turner Johnson) are through to the final 50 players being eyed at the Canadian Professional League’s open tryouts in Hamilton.
Many more have joined or had trials with pro academies in Canada and overseas in Europe, while the latest OSU grad to sign a professional contract was 17-year-old Mehdi Essoussi, now with Toronto FC II.
“That was great news,” notes OSU head coach Paul Harris. “We want to keep on breaking ground like that.”
Region’s first girls’ OPDL title
OSU celebrated another groundbreaking moment when its Force under-15 squad became the first girls’ team from Eastern Ontario to collect an Ontario Player Development League championship. The provincial crown topped the list of trophies won by OSU this season, which also included many regional league, Cup and Shield titles.
The U15 girls’ OPDL side featured many players who rose up the ranks at OSU since age 8 or 9.
“It’s great to see that paying off, and again proving that our system works, and that our players can be successful if they keep going to the end of that chain,” signals Harris, who’s won at least one provincial title every year since he arrived at OSU 6 years ago.
“You can have the odd good team, but if you continually produce at least one that’s winning a provincial championship every year, you must be doing something right,” he adds. “That’s something we’re quite proud of in our development system – we’re always looking for ‘who’s the next one?’”