2023 Week 1: Player Rankings
Written by Patrick Gibson
Photo Credits: Phil Larivière
Following each match, one of the CCSG writing staff will take a look back on the performances of each member of ATO that took the pitch. The timing on these articles will vary going forward, if only because we can’t catch everything when we’re standing and chanting all game. The author will also change game to game in order to see the different perspectives we have as fans of the game that we all love. Without further ado, here are my ratings for Gameweek 1 vs. Halifax Wanderers.
#19 Malcolm Shaw
6.5: Malcolm’s inclusion has to come with the caveat that the substitution felt forced at the time due to the injury to Assi. He held the ball up well, and the ideas were there, but he never was able to get into dangerous areas, bar one chance in the 18. On that, again, the idea was clear, but as it has seemed since the start of last season, the execution needs to be crisper.
#18 Samuel Salter
6.1: Sam’s game was frustrating because there are flashes of what he should be, but it feels that the old habits of playing out on the wing for Halifax last season are still affecting his play. He’s been signed to play as an out-and-out striker, and the final product was entirely absent today despite how well he tracked back. The first-half misstep with the ball running through his legs, which led to an HFX goal, is hopefully just a case of it being the season's first game and not a part of a larger pattern.
#7 Gianni Dos Santos
6.6: Of our attacking players, dos Santos’ ambition was clearly the most on display. He shifted all around the forward line and provided a clear option in counter attacks, particularly on long balls forward from the center-backs. As with Shaw, the execution was not entirely there at times, but the runs he was making and the ideas he presented going forward through 90 minutes were nearly as dangerous as Tabla’s were last season. We just need the execution to reach that same level, and the attack will be much improved.
#30 Gabriel Antinoro
6: Antinoro very much felt like an 18-year-old making his first professional start. Getting to the pace of the game is going to be an adjustment, and given how Carlos Gonzalez treated our young players last season in terms of integrating them into the team, I wouldn’t assume that it was his intention to have Antinoro out there starting the first game of the season. There are certainly positives to take; he was quite calm in possession in the defensive end and made some key touches to break out from midfield, which will be built on going forward. (I also won’t complain about the u21 minutes right from the off, given the hoopla about that last season).
#14 Jean-Aniel Assi
6.9: Assi took time to grow into the game, but his partnership with Ollie Bassett along the right side of the midfield has certainly presented itself as the main threat for opposing sides going forward. His crossing at this stage leaves a bit to be desired, but seeing him becoming far more decisive toward the end of the first half was nice. The assist to Ollie was indicative of that, even if it was a relatively simple piece to execute. The injury in the 60th minute was unfortunate as Assi had worked himself into the game ahead of the collective, and, given the performance of the side in the last 15, he could have very easily provided an additional spark to get the winning goal.
#10 Ollie Bassett
7.8: Last season’s MVP returned in mid-season form and was far and away the best player on the pitch. Confident on the ball and aggressive on the counter press throughout the game, Ollie was rewarded with his first goal at TD Place, fittingly right in front of Olliewood hill. His missed chance late in the second half was unfortunate but can equally be attributed to aggressive goalkeeping from Yann Fillion. A couple of misplaced passes here and there were unfortunate but almost to be expected of the main driver of play, particularly as he seemed to be in a different rhythm from everyone else.
#22 Zakaria Bahous
6.7: Coming on at halftime suited Bahous well. A player that looked tired at the end of last season seemed rejuvenated coming on in the second half. Nothing particularly decisive stood out from his play, but he was solid, functioning as the left central midfielder in attack and ahead of Tissot when in defense. He’ll still need to get sharper; one particular sequence on a throw-in with Tissot stands out as an early season moment, but getting consistent minutes rather than being used extensively to meet the u21 threshold last season will be vital for his continued success and development.
#11 Noah Verhoeven
7.2: Noah was my biggest question mark heading into this match, particularly as he was set to be functioning as the single pivot in our midfield three. Going forward, he passed the test with flying colours. I was most impressed by his calm presence in the initial transition with the ball, always finding the right pass to break any chaos that could ensue in the defensive third. It remains to be seen how Noah handles his defensive responsibilities throughout the season, but if this is the individual level we see from him week to week, his inclusion in the team will be difficult not to justify.
#15 Maxim Tissot
6.6: Tissot’s performance, as was most last season, was up and down. With a difficult assignment in Zachary Fernandez, he held up very well defensively for the majority of the game. Unfortunately, the team being caught in transition for the Halifax goal had him ahead of the rest of the line and unable to track Fernandez back. Going forward, he made a couple of nice runs forward and one cutback that should have been a shot on goal at the absolute minimum, but he also seemed to be missing a tad bit of necessary pace to create more opportunities down the left flank.
#91 Aboubakary Sacko
NR: A brief debut for Sacko means that there is no player rating to provide, but it’ll be interesting to see how much opportunity he manages this season in rotating with Tissot on the left. In his few minutes on the pitch, it was clear that he has boatloads of pace. The yellow card is an unfortunate one to pick up, as I’m still not sure the initial foul was a foul to begin with, and it needs to be drilled out of him with the way officials operate in CanPL.
#4 Diego Espejo
7: Diego’s opening match performance might not have reached the absolute highs that he did last season, but his presence was certainly noticeable at the back. Incredibly solid in the air and on his feet, his only real mistakes came in attempts at progressive passes forward. Even then, he was able to recover successfully and prevent any additional danger, plus he made significantly more successful long balls forward than unsuccessful ones. If the distribution can stay where it is, he’ll surely be a contender for Defender of the Year once more.
#17 Miguel Acosta
6.5: Not Miguel’s strongest game. A relatively unnecessary yellow after 30 minutes influences this rating regardless of its validity. Perhaps this is just a symptom of expectation from one of the most consistent performers in the league, but it didn’t seem like he generated as much as he needed to. This is also down to a couple of runs down the right not being spotted by his teammates. Another “first game of the season” type performance that feels like he’ll not be replicating.
#20 Karl Ouimette
6.2: Ouimette’s debut wasn’t as encouraging as I had hoped. Perhaps it’s a result of the limited time on the pitch (~20 minutes). Regardless, he seemed to be roaming far more than he should’ve in his limited time, which I’ll attribute to a desire to grab the winning goal by any means necessary. It’s not the start I had hoped for from him, but it’s only 20 minutes; his first start should tell us a lot more.
#5 Luke Singh
7.1: At first glance, I wasn’t entirely impressed with what Luke Singh brought. On the rewatch I couldn’t help but realize I was completely wrong. Powerful in the air, able to hold up against any of the Halifax attackers, and generally good positional play in the back three. The goal against was unfortunate; it looked like he got caught in two minds, not committing to the runner or the ball carrier. That said, his progressive distribution was what led to the equalizer at the end of the first half, and his confidence going forward with the ball at his feet is wonderful to see from the young center-half.
#29 Nathan Ingham
6.6: Nathan didn’t have to deal with too much. All of his saves were directly at him, so there was no need for theatrics. The goal is certainly not his fault, and anyone suggesting he could’ve done more are focusing on the completely wrong thing. Also, he didn’t really need to distribute all that much. Just allowing the defense to play those long balls when needed. No errors, but no real shining moments of brilliance either, a performance you’d like to see regularly from your keeper.
I stressed this element heavily through the course of these ratings, but it bears repeating that this was the season's first game. Particularly as we integrated 6 new starters into the lineup, not everyone is going to be able to perform to their utmost potential right away. They have to figure out the system and get comfortable with one another. Pre-season competition can highlight where things can grow, but until competitive fixtures are played, you never really know what you have. There are certainly areas for improvement, but there is plenty of time for that improvement to occur. I’m not going to panic after one mediocre result as long as things trend upward.
Having joined CCSG in 2022, Patrick started his footie career playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros around the same time. While the first pro team he supported was Manchester United, as soon as Atlético Ottawa came to town, he was immediately on board. His wealth of footie knowledge has been a constant asset, along with his role as caretaker for Atléti Wikipedia pages.