Salter Settling In At Atletico Ottawa: ‘I Came Here To Win’
Settling into life in the nation’s capital, Samuel Salter has no regrets in making the jump from the Halifax Wanderers over to Atletico Ottawa.
This summer saw the 22-year-old make history as the Canadian Premier League’s first intra-league transfer to command a fee, inking a multi-year deal in Ontario after having led Halifax’s goalscoring chart last season.
While it’s fair to say the start of the season hasn’t gone to plan for Ottawa, Salter is confident that 2023 will bring both himself and his new club plenty of joy.
Looking back, the striker’s history-making move came about quickly: he was fully expecting to be wearing Halifax blue earlier in the year, with Patrice Gheisar even discussing his role in the team and how they would play. In a span of one week, however, Atletico Ottawa came in with an offer, Halifax accepted, and Salter quickly came to terms quickly with his new club.
“I just thought Ottawa would be the best fit for me going forward in my career,” he explains of the move. “I really think the project Ottawa offered, and coach Carlos, really sold me on the project.”
The fact that he’s now at the CPL side closest to his hometown of Laval was also a major factor for him, and while he admits it has taken some time to settle into how the club plays on the pitch, he’s excited to see how things go forward.
That’s something that has taken time: his first six matches throughout all competitions would come and go without a goal before he notched his first in a five-nil demolition against expansion side Vancouver FC.
“It was a special feeling, and that game was special because it was our first league win of the season. That moment was a bit of relief, to be honest, and just happiness – I was really, really, happy to score.”
While Salter’s history-making move had made him the subject of increased scrutiny league-wide, he adds that he didn’t really feel any added pressure from the media, stating the only pressure he felt came from within.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, because I know what I’m capable of. I really want to show what I can do on the pitch, and do what I’m able to do. The pressure from goals is always there: we have to win games, and strikers have to score goals – that’s how the game goes.”
Salter scored fifteen goals in Halifax blue before making the jump, two of which came against Ottawa last season. His new gaffer was drawn to his work ethic and instinct in front of goal, inking him to two-year deal with a club option for another year. Evidently, they believe the 22-year-old has yet to hit his ceiling.
“Coach Carlos demands high work from the strikers defensively and offensively, which I think suits me well,” adds Salter, who adds that things in Ottawa are run in a highly regimented fashion, with the scale of the club’s organization leaving the him impressed. From nutrition intake to gym work, everything is organized from top-to-bottom.
Now that he’s off the mark, it’ll be interesting if the Quebecois striker revs up to the potency in front of net that he showed in Halifax colours last year. He’s already already faced his old club twice, once in league play and once in the cup, but hasn’t managed to score against his old team yet.
Would he celebrate scoring against them if the moment came?
“My teammates ask me that a lot! No, I don’t think so…you know, I’m not much of a celebrate guy. Maybe I have to change that in the future,” he laughs. The vibe is good. I guess we’ll see when the time comes.
“I think it’s coming together for me, and I think the team will show more stability and results to really show our best colours, because I think we’ve shown a couple of glimpses in some games. So, we’ll be more consistent on a game-to-game-basis and things will go our way.”
Atletico Ottawa currently rests seventh in league standings, but last year’s regular season champions aren’t letting a slow start get to them: the heads are being held high and the atmosphere in the locker room is strong.
“We’re quite hungry, we want to win some games and we’re putting in our best effort everyday in training to make sure we win games. We just have to be more consistent, and I think the results will come our way.”
Off the pitch, Salter has been enjoying life in the nation’s capital, though with five of the club’s eight first matches being away matches, he still has a lot of the city left to explore.
“The summer will be nice, it’ll be nice out and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it.”
It’s hard to fathom that just over three seasons ago, the history-making CPL striker had been plying his trade down in Quebec’s semi-professional level. Once a teenage CF Montreal youth prospect, he dipped his toes into the league with CS St-Hubert and, after heading stateside for his education, returned to help AS Blainville lift the trophy as the league’s leading goalscorer in 2020.
It was after that when Halifax took a chance on the six-foot-two Quebecer, activating his option after year one and ultimately selling him just ahead of year three. Looking at the CPL, Salter is please to see his home province well-represented.
“The PLSQ is a good place to prove yourself as a young player. I think there’s definitely going to be some more players that come through during the following years.”
He’s come a long way, but at just 22 years of age he’s still got plenty of laneway in front of him. When I asked what his immediate career goal was, the answer cam quickly.
“I came here to win,” he said. It was a simple answer, but fair enough. “We want to win, we want to compete. That’s a major reason why I came here. Hopefully we can do that, achieve that this year, and the following year as well.”
Header Image Photo Credit: John Jacques