Looking for 'a new challenge', the 28-year-old Scotland native agreed to become the first ever signing for new NASL side Ottawa Fury FC.
Before this month, very few people within the Canadian soccer community knew of Nicki Paterson. As the first ever signing for the NASL's Ottawa Fury FC, Paterson will be looking to not only make his name in the burgeoning professional game in Ontario, but also to help put his new club on the proverbial map.
A 28-year-old Scotland native, Paterson cut his teeth in his home country before heading across the Atlantic in 2005 to play in the NCAA. A successful career at UNLV led to pro opportunities in the United Soccer Leagues pyramid, with Paterson spending time with the Harrisburg City Islanders and Real Maryland Monarchs before returning home for a brief stint at Clyde FC in Scotland.
He returned stateside in 2011 to play for the Charleston Battery in USL Pro, the American third division, where he had his most success to date. Three standout seasons saw Paterson achieve all there was to win in the circuit, including a USL Pro Championship in 2012.
His play with the Battery, which led to consecutive Most Valuable Player and Offensive MVP awards bestowed upon the midfielder by the team, led him to an extended trial with the New York Red Bulls in late 2012. And while he ultimately did not receive a contract from the Major League Soccer side, he returned to Charleston for one final season with a sense of what it takes to play in the upper tiers of the North American game.
It was with this in mind that Paterson approached the opportunity to step up to the North American Soccer League, the second division in both Canada and the United States. When the Fury presented him with a chance to be part of a brand new team at a higher level of play, the Scotsman said the decision was an easy one – with an unexpected benefit.
"Having lived in the USA for the past nine years in various states, it just seemed time for a new
challenge," Paterson told Goal by e-mail. "Ottawa, being the capital, has so much going on, with a culture very much like Scotland.
"I am just about to get married and my fiancée is able to work in Canada, which is a huge bonus."
Paterson was named the Fury's first ever NASL signing on Nov. 6, and he has since been joined on the squad by Brazilian midfielder Oliver Minatel. He said that while there may be increased expectation on him as the club's inaugural signing, he's confident that head coach Marco Dos Santos and the rest of the Fury staff will bring in the kind of personnel that will alleviate the inherent pressures of an expansion season.
"I think any new signing at a club feels a little pressure – it’s part of the game," he explained. "But I am only one piece of a 25-player puzzle and each player has to stand up and be counted. I have the benefit of being in many situations as a professional so I will use my experience to help the rest of the squad gel as a unit."
|I think any new signing at a club feels a little pressure – it’s part of the game. But I am only one piece of a 25-player puzzle..."
- Ottawa Fury FC midfielder Nicki Paterson
In his brief time as a member of the Fury, Paterson has bought into the overall vision for the new team as laid out by Dos Santos and club president John Pugh. He feels that he and his teammates will be given all the tools to succeed right out of the gate.
"Individually for me it’s all about setting the bar every day and the results will come," he said. "I am
confident I can bring goals to the club and help us be successful. The stadium alone shows how big a
project this is. The ownership group, OSEG, deserve a lot of credit for their vision.
"I am extremely impressed in what they have done in such a short space of time and look forward to what’s next."
A large part of what convinced Paterson to move north of the border was Dos Santos, whom he describes as a "very knowledgeable man."
"He seems to know everything about soccer and it is that passionate approach which makes you want to play for him," Paterson said of his new coach. "I have heard from several of his ex-players that his training sessions are first class, so I know he will improve me as a player and challenge me on a daily
basis. He is also fluent in four languages, which is incredible!"
Paterson and Dos Santos have already discussed what type of football they envision for the Fury next season, despite the team officially having only two players on the books so far.
"I don't want to give too much away but it’s clear Marc wants to play an attractive brand of football," the midfielder said. "He wants to give the fans a style that they can really enjoy and be proud of. I see the team not being full of individuals but see the benefit in working hard together as a group [as well as] being difficult to beat, but creating a lot of chances, which hopefully will lead to many goals and wins!"
As for the longer term, Paterson hopes to be a part of the Fury for years to come. He sees the benefits of the Canadian lifestyle not only from a professional standpoint, but also from a personal one.
"For now I see my future in Canada for some time," Paterson said. "I’ll be married in a month and want to enjoy the first few years of married life and do some travelling. In a few years we definitely want to start a
family but right now I still feel that where I am is better for me than even the [Scottish Premier League]. The resources in North America are amazing.
"The SPL has quality, but it does not offer the same quality of life."
While he's looking forward to his new life as one of the faces of Ottawa's newest professional sporting franchise, he also fondly remembers his time in South Carolina.
"I loved every minute of my time in Charleston. I reached two semi-finals and won a championship. I
made a great bunch of friends and the city is one of the best in America. It wasn’t easy leaving, I still
had two years left on my contract, but the lure of Ottawa Fury FC got me."
Additional reporting provided by Paul Macdonald.