By Patrick Gibson
Photo Credits: Phil Larivière
3 points is 3 points. As frustrated as we may be that more goals didn’t find the back of the net, we can take solace in our 3rd clean sheet of the year (though it seems a tad problematic that 2 of the 3 have come against the same side). We can also take solace in that our striker can indeed put the ball in the back of the net. This game against Vancouver was a solid, collective performance. No one obviously stood out ahead of everyone else, and you can point to certain moments from just about everyone to highlight positively while providing limited issues. Is this another case of being able to look good against weak opposition? It’s entirely possible. However, and this possibly might be a bad thing for my mental health, I choose to look at this game with optimism. There’s certainly a lot to deal with in the coming two weeks, going away to Forge and Pacific, but I genuinely believe we can come through with at least one result. Now to take a look at our ratings:
#18 Samuel Salter
(7): Even though he did score his second goal of the season, the biggest contribution Salter delivered from my perspective today was his hold-up play. For the first time this season, it felt that Sam was able to truly play to his body type. He may have only won 3 of his aerial duels, but the ability he displayed in holding off his man to distribute the ball is exactly the type of work that a lone striker in this system is supposed to provide. 22 of 25 successful passes is a big improvement, not only in the accuracy aspect but in connecting with the midfield. That’s not even going into the finish for his goal, which was a fantastically executed sequence of control into placement. It’s that sort of thing that we hoped for from Salter when the transfer was announced. He’s done it against Vancouver twice this season; now, can he perform against any other side?
#7 Gianni dos Santos
(6.6): For the second consecutive game, Gianni dos Santos was not preferred down the left wing for ATO. And, for the 4th time in the last three home games, he found himself on the wrong end of another missed big chance. After he was played through late, with a chance to put the game on ice, his finish was once again lacking. The miss was not as egregious as the chance against Halifax but was unfortunate nonetheless. He also seemed to miss some fairly important plays connecting with those around him in the build-up play and didn’t offer much as an outlet down the left wing. He still got into good positions and managed to win 3 of 4 ground duels, but the end product still hasn’t arrived. It’s been nearly 2 months since his last goal contribution, and his playing time is dwindling as a result.
#16 Zach Verhoven
(6.8): Unlike last week, Zach Verhoven wasn’t the centre of attention for the ATO attack. While the left side did generate some forward momentum toward the end of the first half, Zach was relegated to more defensive duties as the ball shifted down the right wing more frequently. Despite his ability to draw the young James Cameron into a yellow card, Zach was only able to win 5 of 15 ground duels on the day. 70% accurate passing was also on the lower end for him individually and in the collective for this game. It’s still interesting to see how he best fits into this line-up as either a starter or a closer, but it’s clear his part to play is still significant. At this stage, he should still be the preferred winger to Gianni, but how much of that would be changed if some of the chances dos Santos has had fell his way? Still, effective, if not glorious, work from Zach down the left wing. A drop-off from last week, but it was bound to be after how much he did against York.
#14 Jean-Aniel Assi
(6.3): For the first time in a long time, Jean-Aniel Assi was not amongst the starting 11 for Carlos Gonzalez. Brought on the pitch in the 63rd minute, Assi did not show much more than he already has so far this year. Some of that could be explained by not receiving the best service from his partners going forward, as a number of occasions could have seen him receive the ball sprinting down the left wing. However, not all of that falls into that category. Once again, Assi seemed to stop the momentum of a counter-attack that looked to be posing a serious threat to Vancouver’s backline. Whether that was due to him losing the ball trying to cut through the defence or by holding up the ball with an open wing to take further space, it feels like I’m a broken record in talking about my issues with his play. A couple of key defensive efforts keep this rating from going lower, and at least he’s contributing on that end.
#22 Zakaria Bahous
(NR): Limited playing time for Zakaria Bahous in this one meant he couldn’t really leave his mark. Only 8 attempted passes, and only 2 duels in his brief stint show how little he was involved, especially as the side started to sit back late to try and hold on to the lead. I’m hoping to see more of Bahous simply because he has been impressive for the last month or so when called upon.
#10 Ollie Bassett
(7.1): Normally, when Ollie Bassett has an effective game, it is a loud performance. You see him involved in every key move that is made, and he’s constantly driving to score himself from his place in the midfield. Today’s performance was a tad more lowkey. Prior to the game against Vancouver, the one knock that you could ascribe to Ollie’s performances was his ability to win ground duels. That’s not something you could say about today’s game, in which he won 5 of 7 and added an aerial duel to boot. 65 touches, 6 passes into the final third, many of which found Carl Haworth down the right wing, and 86% pass accuracy all contribute to a successful game for someone in a deeper role. His versatility provides us so much in the midfield, particularly due to his work ethic, 11 recoveries for a central midfielder is notable, and it pains me to think what this team would look like without him around. I’ve been saying for a while that I fear he may leave in July when the transfer window opens, and now that fear is starting to seriously manifest.
#11 Noah Verhoeven
(7.3): If Ollie does leave, though, these types of performances from Noah Verhoeven should be able to limit the downside to the shift in midfield. His calm demeanor in the defensive half, when given the ball, was on full display once again, with one particular sequence in the first half sticking out as he maneuvered through two pressing Vancouver players with some deft footwork. He should’ve arguably had a goal just moments before Sam Salter found the back of the net as his attempt was cleared off the line, and he had another shot hit the target in the first half as well. Being able to win 3 free kicks is something we’ve not seen a ton of from Noah, but it shows his ability to put defenders in situations where they are forced to commit fouls. It’s a valuable skill in a midfielder to be able to slow down the game if necessary or put dangerous dead ball players in a position to succeed. 77% pass accuracy is lower than I would like to see, but successful dribbles and 4 passes into the final third shows the offensive impetus that his role demands. After a couple of so-so performances, the Noah I’ve been impressed with through the first third of the season came back against Vancouver.
#30 Gabriel Antinoro
(NR): It’s hard to make an impact in such little time on the pitch, but I do want to give a shout-out to Gabriel Antinoro for what he did in injury time. The energy he displayed in getting all over the pitch, both offensively and defensively, was truly admirable. His defensive work, especially as I knew he’d have flashed in the opponent’s half, and his being able to add the work ethic in his own half is going to make him a complete player. Extrapolating these smaller appearances to a full game is difficult, but I’d love to see Gabi get more playing time, if only because we need the u21 minutes.
#17 Miguel Acosta
(7.3): We’re now at about a month straight of high-level defensive midfield performances from Miguel Acosta. For a guy that had been a fullback for every game I’ve ever seen him play, I’d like to think that’s pretty impressive. We’re also at consecutive games with an assist, taking him to 6 for his ATO career. While they haven’t been killer balls into dangerous positions, Acosta is showing an ability to get the ball to his teammates in dangerous areas. This is something we can’t be taking for granted, given performances this season where that task has seemed beyond our players. His defensive ability is largely without question. There was a fairly weak foul made on Gaby Bitar in a dangerous area, but plays like the recovery he made to make a tackle on Shaan Hundal late in the 2nd half when Abou Sacko was caught out was what you dream of from a defensive midfielder. I still want a natural DM to fill the slot, if only to give us more depth in defence as we come closer to potential suspensions for Diego and Luke, but Miguel’s proven at this point to be more than just a stopgap as the pivot.
#9 Carl Haworth
(7.3): After a rough couple of games to mark his return, Carl Haworth was in fine form against Vancouver. He was the lynchpin to an ATO attack that was very dangerous in the initial stages. He was able to get in behind or facilitate others getting in behind Tyler Crawford down the right wing. His cross to Noah Verhoeven was the initial ball that would eventually lead to the lone goal of the match and he even managed to get a couple of shots off himself that weren’t the most troubling for Callum Irving. It would have already been a successful day for the captain if that were it, but his success in duels further supplements his performance. 8/11 ground duels alongside 2/2 aerial duels showed dominance for ATO down the left flank of Vancouver. What Carl brings as a player, and not just as a leader, is his ability to find people with crosses. If we continue to focus down the flanks, I see Carl as being a key element to success as he provides the most consistent delivery of anyone in red and white.
#91 Aboubakary Sacko
(NR): One of two ATO players who saw the field returning from injury, Abou Sacko’s limited game time felt similar to that of Zakaria Bahous—nothing truly outstanding either way. The only thing of note is the spacing that he and Gianni occupy along the left wing. It felt like they were both pushed a tad too far up at times, and that left Shaan Hundal space to run in behind that wing in an attempt to try and get himself back into the game. Being able to confidently substitute Max Tissot is going to be a valuable asset going forward, as would be any rotation for any player over 30 at such a demanding position on stamina, and Abou is going to be the one that logs those minutes, so staying healthy is the priority for him.
#15 Maxim Tissot
(6.8): He really should’ve scored. It was a bit of cruel fate that Max Tissot’s shot in the second half careened off the far post back into play. The whole buildup was fairly special from ATO and indicative of a team that can string together a successful offensive setup. On the whole, however, Tissot’s game was not up to the standard of the rest of the defensive line. Not to say it was bad, but perhaps lacking in certain aspects. 1 of 4 accurate crosses continues. Unfortunately, Maxim has not been able to find the attackers in the 18-yard box, and 2 of 7 ground duels won, with 3 fouls given, is also not going to contribute to an effective performance. Perhaps the workload has worn on him since returning from injury, but the defensive performance can’t be lacking if the offence isn’t there. It’s not quite that bad yet, but there are signs it might be.
#4 Diego Espejo
(7.4): For the first time in a while, the positives to Diego’s game were limited to just the defensive side of the ball. His forward distribution was lacking, completing only one long ball when he has been fairly consistent in doing so multiple times a game over the last few. He probably should have scored off a corner later in the first half but had two golden opportunities denied by various players along the Vancouver goal line. That said, his defensive work was still stellar. Tasked with handling the CPL’s now second top goalscorer Shaan Hundal, Diego made him invisible on the pitch. Winning all of his ground duels and 5/7 aerial duels is just another day at work for the young Spanish center-half. Having a collective defensive performance like this will make it so Diego doesn’t shine through completely, but still, it’s hard to ignore the level he’s at.
#5 Luke Singh
(7.3): The only foot Luke Singh actually seemed to put wrong in this match was the yellow he received in the 61st minute for an unnecessary challenge on Shaan Hundal. Otherwise, on rewatch, it was fairly astounding how involved he was in the game. The most mind-blowing statistic to me is that he was 12/15 on long balls. Regardless of how many of those were switches along the defensive line is irrelevant, as it more than makes up for Diego’s poor showing in that particular area. Any time he stepped up into the play with the ball at his feet, there was certainly confidence oozing from him, and he made the correct decision every time, drawing defenders into his path to distribute and continue the attack properly. It’s odd to focus so heavily on the attacking play of a central defender, but when it comprises so much of what made his performance what it was, it’s impossible not to.
#20 Karl Ouimette
(7.4): A confident Karl Ouimette is essential to this team’s success, given how there is no real room for rotation along the defensive line at this time. His prowess in the air was on full display today, winning 3 of 4 aerial duels and combining that with 3 headed clearances as well. He’s been stable as a distribution option when recycling the ball and got himself involved with the attack down the right wing. While he did have one or two instances of being beaten for pace down the wing, his positioning largely made up for that, and he was able to limit the threat down Ottawa’s right flank. 90% pass accuracy from 67 passes is inflated by balls going across the defence, but 10 passes into the final third certainly offset that from an impact standpoint. Karl’s grown into his role down the right, and while I still have questions about pacier wingers against him, there’s no denying his current performances make him a guarantee in the first XI.
#29 Nathan Ingham
(7): The return of Kingham to the Ottawa goal was a triumphant one. I suppose that’s mostly in results rather than overall performance, but that’s mostly because he was not asked to do much of anything. Only one shot found its way toward him in the ATO goal, and that was dealt with easily as it flew harmlessly into his hands. The confidence he displayed in set-piece situations was far more reminiscent of Nathan Ingham from 2022 and was much needed as Vancouver managed to find themselves with a number of free kicks in dangerous positions. While he only ended up claiming one of the corners that were taken, it still felt different from the last few weeks. It’s clear Nathan is able to lead from the back very effectively, and I don’t doubt that the collective defensive performance is down to a significant contribution from him in that domain.
Solid team performances are nice to see, as it means I don’t have to be writing this with anger or pain in the front of my mind. Would it have been nice to see a couple more goals go in, of course, and that’s mostly to do with the continued push for CCSG’s Prideraiser campaign, which can be found here, even if a better goal difference would be nicer for everyone: https://www.prideraiser.org/campaigns/capital-city-sg-ottawa-prideraiser-2023-AO12rmpv8rbmE/
We’re about to go into a difficult couple of games, with two away ties against the reigning champions, Forge, and the current toppers of the table, Pacific. I, personally, do not expect much in terms of results, even with Forge not performing to their usual standard as of late, but who knows? This season is long and full of twists and turns. Hopefully, one of those twists happens to go our way in this little stretch and lets us be happy about our team for more than just a week at a time.
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.