Look for more League1 Ontario previews as the seasons approaches
As League1 Ontario heads into a fourth season, expansion is again one of the off-season buzzwords.
With four new clubs being added to the league, and a brand new region in Ottawa via the additions of OSU Force in the men's east division and West Ottawa Soccer Club in the women's division, the league is now up to 27 teams and extends from Windsor in the southwest to Ottawa in the northeast.
As part of a brand new feature series, League1 will profile the latest additions - Unionville Milliken, Toronto Blizzard, West Ottawa Soccer and OSU Force - illustrating the unique flavour each brings to the league, their philosophy and core mandate, and in many cases some significant achievements both domestically and abroad.
The second of the new club profiles is again focused on Ottawa, this time profiling one of the three new additions to the 2017 women's division - West Ottawa Soccer Club.
Helmed by technical director Kristina Kiss - a former Canadian national that captained the senior team at the 2003 Pan Am Games - West Ottawa will enter the league as a heavyweight prospect, capable of selecting from a region that has a population 900,000 strong.
Established only seven years ago, the club is already one of the largest in the province with 8,500 members.
"Although the club is not very old, we strive to develop players at all ages by providing quality coaching and programs that are player-centred," said Kiss, regarding the West Ottawa system of development.
Drawing from her extensive international experience after 75 appearances with Canada's national team, Kiss will lead the club's new League1 team as a head coach, and will be capably assisted by former professional players Kwame Telemanque and Andrei Badescu.
"We are thrilled to start a women's League1 team in order to complete our in house player pathway on the women's side," explained Kiss. "It is our hope that we can push players through this program into full professional opportunities."
"We have been lucky enough to have many women's National team players run camps and deliver talks to inspire the young players at our club, and have also sent many of our teams to Europe to train and compete against top teams."
An Ottawa native, Kiss knows the local player pathway from personal experience, and she has a clear goal in mind with the establishment of this women's pro am team.
"Our vision is to be the leader in player development for life," she said. "We hope to provide players of all ages and abilities the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential."
"There are many players in the region that are playing at a very high level and in need of a challenge to further their development," she concluded.
"This is a much needed opportunity not just for these players but for the younger players in our area to look up to and aspire to be."
West Ottawa Soccer Club League1 Ontario Technical Staff (L-R): Kwame Telemanque (Assistant Coach); Kristina Kiss (Head Coach); Andrei Badescu (Goalkeeper Coach)
The players will certainly have a technical staff of great role models, with Kiss' assistants bringing notable experience at the top levels of the game as well.
Goalkeeper coach Andrei Badescu is a former Montreal Impact keeper, with previous experience at the professional level in Switzerland and Romania. Badescu is also an accomplished coach, having previously held the head goalkeeper coach position at Montreal Impact Academy, Capital City FC and Kingston FC.
Assistant coach Kwame Telemanque played professionally in Belgium, Portugal, Ireland and Canada - where he won a national professional title with the Ottawa Wizards, and a national amateur title with St. Anthony's Soccer Club.
"Ottawa is known to have big support for their semi-pro and pro franchises, and being the only women's franchise in League1 we will provide a quality level of soccer for all to see," said Telemanque.
"The goal for the WOSC League1 team is to identify with all youth players by playing the same brand and philosophy we instill within all teams under the WOSC banner," he added.
"Our aim is to have a very competitive team that will not only represent the women's game in the Ottawa area, but be the flagship team for WOSC."
West Ottawa will kick off their debut League1 Ontario campaign on May 7 against Vaughan Azzurri.
West Ottawa's full schedule can be found here.