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2023 Week 14 Player Rankings and Midterm Grades

By Patrick Gibson

Photo Credits: Cavalry FC

For about 80 minutes, I was trying to figure out any possible way I could not write this article. Even now, as I sit here typing away, I remain absolutely flummoxed as to how Atletico Ottawa managed to come away from this game with 3 points. I still am not going to go in-depth on this game at all, if only because I don’t want to relive the dour “both teams on way too little rest” matchup that we were all subject to on Wednesday. I’ll touch on the highlights across this article for sure, but rather than belabour the point, and write two separate articles in such quick succession with another game on Sunday, I’ll take the opportunity to give a mid-season review. How are we looking now that we’ve kept a second consecutive clean sheet and have won 3 consecutive games at home? (Yes, this is a rhetorical question, but let me have a little bit of artistic licence, yeah?) Let's jump into the rankings for Week 14 and the Midterm Grades:

#18 Samuel Salter

Week 14 Grade: NR

Midterm Grade: 6.3

It’s been fairly obvious throughout the season that I’ve not been the highest on Sam Salter. Even when the signing was announced, I had more than a healthy dose of scepticism about what exactly he was going to be bringing to the team. Early on, it seemed like my prediction had borne fruit. He struggled to integrate into the game plan and provided little in any element of his game. Recently, however, the more optimistic among us have been rewarded. 4 goal contributions from a striker through 14 games isn’t anything to marvel at, but he’s managed 3 of those in the last 5 games. Against Cavalry, it was an absolute peach of a ball to find Jean-Aniel Assi to seal the game in the 86th minute. Is this just a system that requires new players to take time to get used to it? Almost certainly. Remember, Ballou only had 2 goals at this point in the season last year. Were the journeys to these goal totals different? Of course, but if Salter can continue to be impactful, he’ll put me and any other doubters to shame.


#99 Ruben Del Campo

Week 14 Grade: 6.5

Midterm Grade: INC

Two games into Ruben Del Campo’s tenure with the club, and he’s not yet been able to put his stamp on the pitch. I’ll attribute his less impactful performance against Cavalry to the 2 days off between fixtures, as I will for essentially everyone who played on Wednesday, rather than any overarching problem that needs fixing. What’s clear is that Ruben’s presence is a positive one. Seeing his and the rest of the bench’s excitement after Assi’s goal demonstrates to me that there won’t be any issues behind the scenes. On top of that, introducing a third striker has lit a spark in the men he’s competing with for playing time. Both Salter and Shaw, who’s also benefited from the motivation of an international call-up, look reinvigorated knowing that they will be fighting to get minutes. It’s 2 games and 2 wins with him in the starting XI. That’s a ratio we can all get behind.


#19 Malcolm Shaw

Week 14 Grade: 7

Midterm Grade: 6.5

So far this season, Malcolm has delivered about what can be expected at this point. His form has varied only ever so slightly from game to game, never taking over a game single-handedly but never doing anything to put the side in danger of dropping truly would-be points. His physicality and hold-up play remains the true benefits to the side as a whole, and that was on display against Cavalry, winning 4 free kicks, most of which in one on ones with the Cavalry defenders on long balls forward. Most importantly, though, he’s remained healthy. Last season, Malcolm was arguably the most impacted player by injury. While he didn’t miss most games, it was clear he wasn’t playing at 100% at times. Being able to avoid missing any time has given Carlos Gonzalez the ability to rotate up top when necessary, allowing fitness to build amongst his strikers, even if that may come at the expense of one being able to start racking up the goals.


#7 Gianni dos Santos

Week 14 Grade: N/A

Midterm Grade: 6.7

We’re now at 3 consecutive games without seeing Gianni on the pitch. It’s almost as frustrating as his final product at times this season. The big number that will stand out about his performances to date are the 5 big chances missed, at least one of which cost us points against Forge at home. While it’s certainly simple to look at that and be negative about it, I’ll take the high road and note how Gianni has been able to get into threatening positions consistently. The goal against Forge on June 25th seemed like it would be the beginning of a bit of redemption for the Cape Verde international, but that pesky injury bug has reared its ugly head once again. I feel like Gianni needs to come back pretty soon, as the depth down the left side is being challenged with multiple players going down simultaneously and the potential need to shift players out of position again to fill those gaps.


#16 Zach Verhoven

Week 14 Grade: 6.3

Midterm Grade: 6.6

There were rumblings that Zach was set to take up a different role this season. With the way the team’s played this season, I’m glad he hasn’t. The spark off the bench has continued his fine form in the most important moments in games and even thrown himself into the fire right from the off on occasion. He’s been deployed basically everywhere along the forward line. Still, he has been best used as an inverted left winger, as shown both with his start against York and his substitute appearance in the second game against Halifax, as he can cut in while static or take on tired defenders with his significant pace advantage. The conversion rate per 90 for Verhoven is patently ridiculous, and even if he only scores a couple more times this season, it’ll be more than enough to push this team forward. Barring injury, he’s set to overtake Ben McKendry for 3rd on the all-time appearances list and still holds the all-time lead for assists with 7, jointly with Carl Haworth. Slowly but surely, through these early years, Zach’s making himself a club legend.


#22 Zakaria Bahous

Week 14 Grade: N/A

Midterm Grade: 6.7

A rare sight for Atletico Ottawa as Zakaria Bahous did not see the field against Cavalry. It’s especially unfortunate given the good run of form that the 22-year-old has been on so far this season, much improved from the end of last year. He’s certainly taken the lessons provided to him over the course of his first professional season to heart. He’s gotten stronger, which has allowed him to be more confident when meeting opponents in the middle of the pitch, and his awareness has improved alongside that. The giveaways and uncertainty when handling the ball last year have been dramatically reduced. For such a young player to be able to make a drastic improvement shows not only what the possibility of a u21 minute rule is, but also how much development still continues through your early 20s. I expect Bahous to continue to be involved through the back half of the season, as his play’s been too consistent for him not to feature, I just wonder how much time he’ll get with a now-packed middle-of-the-park.


#10 Ollie Bassett

Week 14 Grade: 7.7

Midterm Grade: 7.3

Form is temporary, class is permanent. In the Canadian Premier League, Ollie Bassett clearly demonstrates the latter. While everyone pointed to Ollie as the key man for this Atletico Ottawa side to have any chance of repeating as regular season champions, that weight came with the caveat that he would be the focus of every opponent’s game plan. Particularly as Ballou Tabla’s transfer to Manisa FK was announced in January. In turn, Ollie has risen to the task and, with his penalty against Cavalry, already equalled his goal output in all competitions from last season, with only one fewer goal contribution. This half-season has seen the Atletico Ottawa side convert in a manner they’ve never been able to previously. Ollie is the catalyst for that, regardless of his direct involvement or not. It’d take a bit of a miracle for him not to be taking home a second golden scarf at the absolute minimum come the end of the year. He’s our biggest star, and no matter the match, everyone who watches has been in for the Olliewood experience.


#21 Alberto Zapater

Week 14 Grade: 7.6

Midterm Grade: INC

That said, if there’s one man I could see just edging him out for CCSG’s ultimate honour, it’s Le Taureau. The fundamental transformation this team has seen just by his sheer presence over the past two games is astonishing. There is a cohesive organisation in defence and midfield that, even at our best last year, wasn’t quite there yet. Looking at his heat map is akin to reading a textbook on how to position as a holding midfielder. The average position chart against Valour made me grin from ear to ear as he was positioned perfectly as an axis point between all four defenders and his attacking midfielders. He does the little things perfectly and never lets himself get overwhelmed. It’s the exact thing you would expect from a veteran who played with the calibre of teams he did, and it’s something everyone on this team should, hopefully, learn from. Each side in the league needs to aspire to this type of signing, as, in an incredibly short time, it’s shown what a true veteran presence can do for a side. You simply can’t tell me with a straight face we don’t already look significantly better than before Alberto showed up.


#11 Noah Verhoeven

Week 14 Grade: NR

Midterm Grade: 6.7

Noah Verhoeven became one of two Atletico Ottawa players to achieve the centurion milestone in the CPL with his brief appearance against Cavalry. One of my brightest spots at the beginning of the season, Noah’s tapered off a bit as the summer has kicked on. Part of that is how well the rest of the midfield has answered the call, but also that Noah has been a bit more passive in these recent games. Fewer game actions overall have, of course, led to fewer opportunities to lay claim to the spot in the Starting XI. At this stage, I’d argue that Noah will be a depth piece from here on out, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s still going to be crucial as a left-footed player in the middle of the park, something that won’t always be top of mind but can prove to be a tactical advantage in certain instances.


#30 Gabriel Antinoro

Week 14 Grade: 7.5

Midterm Grade: 6.7

One of the big reasons Noah’s playing time may start to diminish is the renaissance of one Gabriel Antinoro. The 19-year-old has come alive since scoring his first professional goal against Forge. He’s provided real energy in midfield and, surprisingly, been very effective in defensive transition. He managed to make several key blocks late against Vancouver in the 1-0 victory in June and made a great tackle in a 4 on 2 situation in this latest game. He’s been slowly improving on the ball as well, and as that comes, so will more playing time, especially as he’s clearly the top choice of our own U21 players. I hope that we don’t run him into the ground in the way we may have done to Zakaria Bahous last season but to keep him on the regimen we have now.


#14 Jean-Aniel Assi

Week 14 Grade: 7.3

Midterm Grade: 6.5

After falling somewhat out of favour with the return of Carl Haworth, Jean-Aniel Assi announced his return with his first professional goal against Cavalry. It’s been a year of ups and downs for the 18-year-old, but in thinking about it a little more, I don’t believe he’s been as bad as I’ve thought. The final product, certainly, has not been pretty for most of the season, his crossing hasn’t really improved all that much, and until the 86th minute against Cavalry, he’d been rather unfortunate in his inability to put the ball in the back of the net. That said, he’s done a good job defensively when deployed as a right-wing back and has not lost the willingness to take defenders on 1v1, a key attribute that every young winger should still look to maintain as they develop. Games like the one against Cavalry, where he provides a goal contribution, may not be the standard bearer for the rest of his campaign, but they’re still going to pop up, and maybe we should not be so quick to judge as the rest of his game develops further. Again, he’s only 18.


#9 Carl Haworth

Week 14 Grade: N/A

Midterm Grade: 6.6

After missing much of the first half of the season, Carl Haworth’s return to the Atletico Ottawa line-up was the first of many winds of change towards a better year for the club. At times, he’s been forced down the left wing, and in those instances, he’s not been a catalyst for much of anything. When deployed in his natural position down the right, Haworth has been a machine. Managing to link up well with Ollie Bassett and play together down that wing, Haworth was rewarded with an assist on the Zach Verhoven dagger against Valour and a rest against Cavalry. With the depth of personnel down the right, we aren’t going to need to run Carl ragged for the remainder of the season, something that’ll be pretty crucial given he’s in his 11th professional season.


#91 Aboubakary Sacko

Week 14 Grade: NR

Midterm Grade: 6.6

Pulling up with a hamstring injury mere minutes after being substituted is among the worst feelings imaginable for a professional footballer. We can only hope that the injury to Abou Sacko isn’t as serious as it seemed from watching at home. Not only for his development as a player, he’s only 20 years old, and repeated injuries to key muscles are a death knell for young players, but for the squad's rotation as well. Currently, 3 of the 4 players who have played significant minutes in the left wing/left wing-back role are injured. Given this will be the second time that Sacko’s missed multiple games in a row due to injury, it’s a concern that even if he were to come back that, he’d be at risk of having the same thing happen once more. This after his best game in red and white, where he realistically should’ve had a hat trick. Throughout the season, he’s been up and down when available, but it’s the last part that scares me: when available.


#15 Maxim Tissot

Week 14 Grade: N/A

Midterm Grade: 6.5

Along with Gianni dos Santos, Max Tissot has been out of the lineup for three straight games now. For some, that is a welcome change, for others, it’s wholly lamentable. As I detailed in my recap of the Atleti/Forge game from a few weeks ago, no player draws as much debate, scrutiny, or conversation on this team. The highlights and the lowlights are plenty with Tissot, who came into the season off of the most games he had ever managed in one full season at age 30. Injuries were always going to be a concern, given his record with them, but up until earlier this year, he’d been a consistent feature for Carlos Gonzalez on a weekly basis. Much like with Sacko, the issue now is that this is the second string of games he’s missed due to injury. As I said before, there will be people that welcome him not being included in the XI regularly, but at some point, someone else has to play down the left because the player there presently isn’t known for being the most durable.


#17 Miguel Acosta

Week 14 Grade: 7.1

Midterm Grade: 6.7

Playing more as a right centre-back than an out-and-out right-back doesn’t really do much to hamper Miguel Acosta. Miguel’s season has been characterised by a need to play in the midfield rather than at his natural right-back spot to be able to accommodate for holes in the roster. He’s since been returned to right back in the last three games and has looked ever the marvel that we thought he would be. While this team doesn’t necessarily live or die by his defensive work, it makes the collective effort a lot easier when there’s a shared faith that he can manage any attacker 1v1 as they bomb down our right flank. With the introduction of Alberto Zapater and a more cohesive defensive unit, Acosta’s job becomes much easier to manage. His performance in defensive midfield was acceptable and sometimes quite good, despite not being a natural in the role, now, he can be a natural and truly allow this team to unlock its highest level.


#5 Luke Singh

Week 14 Grade: 7.2

Midterm Grade: 6.7

Of the three main centre-backs rotated throughout the campaign, Luke Singh has been the most successful in turning defence to attack. His long balls have maybe not always provided the direct impetus for goal scoring, but certainly a threat to the opposing sides. There are times when he’s been out of position, or made costly mistakes, the own goal against York being the one that stands out the most, but on the balance, he’s been a positive defensively. In the last two games, he’s been elevated, in my opinion, as a result of his call-up to the Trinidad and Tobago national team for the Gold Cup and the increased motivation therein. He may be the least talented of our centre-backs in dealing with things in the air, which is saying something, as he’s still been very good at winning his aerial duels. He’s still a very young man at age 22, and with continued exposure to a system like this will be able to grow into a true professional. I fear he might still get caught out once or twice, but we can limit the potential that those mistakes can generate.


#3 MacDonald Niba

Week 14 Grade: 7

Midterm Grade: 6.8

Bar one game, MacDonald Niba has been an asset when on the pitch for Atletico Ottawa this season. The problem is that he’s only been a significant feature in about 5 or 6 games in all competitions. Being able to string 3 games together without injury is enough of an accomplishment. His presence brings an aerial threat to target from goal kicks in areas where there’s no immediate threat to the Atletico goal if the aerial duel is lost. His physicality makes for difficult matchups for his opposite number when he’s deployed at left-back, and he still has enough pace to be able to keep up with the quickest down the right wing in the Canadian Premier League. His marauding runs forward from left back have been awkward, to put it mildly, but do serve as a way of ensuring the opponent is kept on their toes. We’ve found the place where he can be the most effective, and hopefully, he can hold the fort while the rest of our left backs remain injured. If Niba goes down, how we manage that will be the biggest question in the second half of the season.


#4 Diego Espejo

Week 14 Grade: 6.5

Midterm Grade: 6.8

Barring a red card and a collective letdown, Diego Espejo has been able to live up to the performances he delivered last season. I’d argue that behind Ollie Bassett, he’s been the most consistent performer for a team that has suffered for that quality in the first half of the season. In the air, he’s been absolutely dominant, he hasn’t had to deal with as many one-on-one duels on the ground this season, at least from my perspective. That said, he has been able to mark out opposing strikers when need be, the best example would be his two games against Vancouver, where joint Golden Boot leader Shaan Hundal was heavily limited in our two clean sheets against them this season. I’ve glorified his accomplishments enough over the course of this season, and I expect nothing less from him for the remainder of the year. I said last year would be our only one with the young Spaniard, I was wrong, but surely this has to be it. We can’t get a third year out of Diego, can we?


#20 Karl Ouimette

Week 14 Grade: 7

Midterm Grade: 6.8

Shifting back into the centre from the right has suited Karl Ouimette very well. With him at right back all season, I’ve been concerned that a side with pace would be able to exploit that pitch area rather effectively. Fortunately, that happened far more rarely than I had feared, with Kyle Bekker’s goal in the Canadian Championship being the only real instance that jumps to mind of Karl being beaten in that way. Inside, he can occupy space and use his strength well to prevent chances, as demonstrated against Joe Mason early in the first half against Cavalry. Combining this with his fantastic ability in the air and having Karl rotate with our other two natural central defenders will make for a real threat. Even if suspensions rear their ugly head, a solution will present itself.


#29 Nathan Ingham

Week 14 Grade: 6.8

Midterm Grade: 6.4

The fact that it took until June 17th for Nathan Ingham to pick up his first clean sheet of the season is kind of wild, particularly when you remember how well he played last season. At the beginning of the year, it was clear that the finger injury that kept him out for 6 weeks was lingering long before he had to be sidelined. He didn’t look himself through the first four games and has now returned to the level of last season, as long as he’s got a solid enough structure ahead of him. The penalty save against Josh Heard in the Pacific game was the announcement to me that Ingham was not only back to full strength but to full confidence. Following that performance with two more clean sheets only helps to serve the notion that the collective is back to 2022 Atletico. With 2022 Nathan Ingham coming back into the fold as well, I truly believe the sky is the limit.


#1 Sean Melvin

Week 14 Grade: N/A

Midterm Grade: 6.2

When Sean Melvin came into the XI against Pacific, you couldn’t have imagined a worse collective performance ahead of him. The confidence that was drained from the team would have ruined a lesser goalkeeper, but Melvin kept his head and steadily improved while Ingham remained injured. There were still several questions about how Melvin managed his box on set pieces, which has been a real issue for the team irrespective of the goalkeeper behind them, and with his distribution, which I’ve slowly come to realise is more of a collective issue at this level than any one thing to be harped on for one player. Melvin still managed to keep 2 clean sheets, one of which against Halifax was as a result of a wonderful point-blank save on Andre Rampersad. Melvin’s level is beyond that of a number 2 keeper. It’s clear that in this system, Ingham is the 1a while Melvin is the 1b, so I don’t feel as worried as I might otherwise be in the instance where we’re forced to make a change in goal. Melvin didn’t get much run time last year but has proven for a sustained period that he can hold down the fort if needed.


ATO's Midterm Report Card

*Players placed in the starting 11 based on minutes played*

4 straight games with 2 or more goals is an incredible thing for a team that was lamented for their inability to score earlier this season. I hope we can continue it against Vancouver, a side that’s made changes recently to try and recover this season, much like we have. All told, there’s optimism to be found about the second half of the season, something that, at certain points through the first few weeks, we weren’t quite sure we had anymore. Midterms are a time to reflect on the first half of a season, and look for ways to improve down the stretch. Based on what we've seen these last few games, we may already be seeing those changes in action.



About Patrick

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.






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