This past Friday marked one year since the Canadian Premier League announced Ottawa as the next recipient of a CanPL club, but it also marked Atletico Ottawa’s first participation in the U-Sport Draft. For Ottawa supporters or other fans who may be new to the concept of the U-Sport Draft, its function is provide a route to professional soccer in Canada for those who are attending University and playing for their schools soccer programs. Since many of the players selected are still teenagers or just graduating school, they often (but not always) qualify towards the league mandated youth minute requirements.
The order of the draft was decided through the Island Games first round league table, which saw Ottawa finish 7th out of 8 places. The draft was conducted in reverse order of the standings, meaning Ottawa selected 2nd in the first round, and then 7th in the second round. There were several Ottawa area players avaiblble for selection in the draft including, but not limited to Dario Conte, Gabriel Bitar, Tony Mikhael and Stefan Karajovanovic, all of whom attend Carleton University.
Who is Cristopher Malekos
With their 2nd pick in first round Ottawa selected Ravens central defender, and Saint-Hyppolyte Quebec native Cristopher Malekos. The 22 year old defender has previously played in Ottawa with former League1 Ontario and current Premiere Ligue de Soccer du Quebec side Ottawa South United as well as fomer PLSQ side FC Gatineau. In 2018 he was named a U-Sports All-Star, and in 2019 helped take the Carleton Ravens to the U-Sports National Championship. He right footed and stands at a tall 6 foot 2 and weighs in around 190lbs, making him a sturdy center back
Cristopher is a perfect example of a modern center-back. If there were such thing as a box-to-box defender then Malekos may fit the bill; he is no stranger to winning the ball in a defensive position and quickly turning play and joining in on the attack. While most center backs tend to find their goals off set pieces, Cris’ highlight reel contains a number of goals from open play. Beyond his ability to cover ground and contribute offensively, Malekos is very strong both in the air winning headers as well as with both standing and sliding tackles. The best way to describe the strength and timing of some of his slide tackles in a way Ottawa soccer fans would easily understand is “Falvey-esq.” He also has excellent distribution of the ball, with the ability to find attacking players 40-50 yards up the pitch, or working it into the midfield.
What They’re Saying
Following the announcement of Malekos as Ottawa’s first round pick in 2021, Atletico Ottawa coach Mista said “He is physically dominant and excellent in the aerial duels and tackles.” Mista went on to add “He plays very simple. He is a key player on the set pieces and has the ability to score goals, he is perfect for us.”
Ottawa broadcaster Gordon Smith, who has covered Ravens matches and has seen Malekos play on several occasions only had positive things to say about the 22 year old. First on twitter Smith said “Called quite a few of his Carleton games and if he continues his development will go on to have a decent pro career.” When asked for a follow up synopsis he added “He has all the attributes needed from a central defender in today’s game. Strong in the air, defensively sound, makes good decisions and is comfortable in possession. Add to this his awareness to read the play in front of him and his aerial threat on set plays he is a great pick by Ottawa.”
Prior to the draft Ravens mens soccer head coach Kwesi Loney spoke to 613 Sports and praise his player. “Chris is a great player and has been acknowledged by the OUA as one of the top defenders for the last 4 years he has played with us… He is a physical presence. Chris is 6’2, great in the air, very dominant in tackles and 1 on 1 duels. He understands his role very well. He has good distribution out the back can play the 5-yard ball through a pinhole but also the 40-yard diagonal ball. He is a warrior on the field.”
Cristopher spoke with The Fulcrum’s Emily Wilson saying “I’m a little lost for words, I’ll tell you that…the screams in the room were pretty loud. To represent my town being a local player is a great opportunity. I was very happy what [Mista] said about me.”
It is hard to gauge exactly where Makelos will fall into Mista’s squad having no professional experience under his belt, and while he is experienced at the University level, it can take a while to adjust to the level of play he will experience with Atletico Ottawa. As it stands Malekos is just the second centre back secured for the upcoming season alongside Brandon John, meaning it is impossible to place him on the depth chart, however there is nothing stopping Malekos from pushing for a starting position and becoming part of the number one pairing.
The league and club ethos has always been to provide a pathway for players to the professional game, as well as supporting local soccer, and for Atletico Ottawa, Malekos is the perfect choice both on paper and on the pitch.