2023 Week 3: Player Rankings
By Patrick Gibson
Photo Credits: Phil Larivière
While I typically offer a few comments before I dive into the numbers, I think that I’ll save those thoughts for the end. Let’s get right to the player ratings:
#19 Malcolm Shaw
(6.7): The Atletico Ottawa attack came to life when Malcolm Shaw entered the pitch in the 60th minute. He wasn’t nearly as active in his substitute appearance as he was in the full 90 last week against Valour. That said, he still found a couple of opportunities, one of which he was unfortunate not to direct toward the goal off a beautiful turn with the outside of his boot. Given the early season fixture list, it does make sense to continue to rotate the players up top to ensure that no one is injured, but based on form alone, it’s difficult to justify leaving Malcolm out of the first eleven. The team is more dynamic going forward with him as the lone striker, and the urgency with which he operates in the attacking line feeds into the rest of the side. Special mention to him for his actions after the match, encouraging and reminding the team to thank the fans despite the clear frustration that was felt across the stadium.
#18 Samuel Salter
(5.9): There had been glimpses of progress in the limited minutes' Salter had received in the previous two matches. All those potential positives were undone in the 60 minutes Salter provided against York. At no point did Salter look like he was offering any threat going forward, oftentimes finding himself isolated against the back line without any real intent to make runs forward. He instead opted to try and win physical battles against Soumaoro and Grant, which he was unable to do consistently. Even when provided with an opportunity from a York mistake, he was unable to capitalize, allowing Grant to recover and deal with the situation quite easily. The change in mentality when Salter was substituted was palpable and should signal to Carlos Gonzalez what his best option is if he is to continue playing a lone striker.
#30 Gabriel Antinoro
(NR): Coming into the game at the 78-minute mark, Antinoro looked lively for his brief spell, providing something new as he was positioned out on the left wing rather than the central position he’s occupied in the previous 3 games this season. A nice cross that nearly found Gianni at the back post was the highlight of his appearance, but he didn’t reach the 15-minute minimum for a rating.
#7 Gianni Dos Santos
(6.8): One of Gianni’s best qualities is that he continues to build effective chemistry with the players down his wing and playing ahead of him. His interplay with Sacko down the left wing was essential to Atletico’s best opportunity at goal, an Assi chance that was well saved by Niko Giantsopoulos. He also forced another save out of the York keeper with a lovely strike from a distance, an added element to the Atletico Ottawa attack that was not really present last season. His crossing, particularly in the first half, needs to be more precise as a number of them were found quite easily by the first York defender, never getting an opportunity to find a head in the mixer. Ultimately, he shifted around the forward line after changes were made, and it’ll be interesting to see how much he’s used down the right wing this season, as he did provide a more direct intent in that position.
#16 Zach Verhoven
(7): As impactful as Malcolm Shaw can be coming into the game, the substitution that really changed the game for Atletico was Zach Verhoven. Playing in a more central role than we’ve been used to in his previous two years with the club, Zach was an absolute engine in the midfield. Running just about everywhere on the pitch, his close control was magnificent against a very adept and well-performing midfield from York. His energy shifted to the rest of the team for short bursts and provided what substitutes are supposed to provide to truly change a game. The versatility he brings will be crucial to our season going forward, as we now have options on how and where to play him in the final minutes of games. While his play certainly warrants inclusion in the first eleven, it is perhaps wise to keep him on the bench as the spark he brings against tired legs, as exemplified last season, maybe one of the biggest assets the entire team possesses.
#14 Jean-Aniel Assi
(6): This rating is probably the one I hemmed and hawed about the most before writing. On initial viewing from the stands, I was unbelievably frustrated with Assi’s performance. Continuing to be indecisive and slowing down promising attacks, losing the ball, and being unable to convert another glorious chance off an Abou Sacko cross. On rewatch, I swung back my criticisms slightly as Jean-Aniel’s passing was fairly effective, and he had been able to handle being double-teamed nearly the entire time he was on the pitch. York dropping their left winger almost immediately to pressure our right wing was a common theme through the first 60 minutes and probably had a significant impact on Assi’s ability to generate positive play. That said, there were a few too many missed opportunities and carelessly long dribbles for me not to come away disappointed with the performance of the 18-year-old. We’re truly missing Carl Haworth if only to be able to lessen the workload for the young man going forward.
#10 Ollie Bassett
(6.7): Regardless of his performance, it was nice to see Ollie return so soon after what could have been a potentially catastrophic injury for his season and the team. His also being able to play 90 minutes without any noticeable effects from the injury only adds to the joy. His play on the pitch was not up to his usual standard, particularly the one he set against Halifax, as he wasn’t the main catalyst in driving the play forward. He still was able to find spaces in and along the right side and even drifted left at times to pick up the ball. Still, whether it was because he wasn’t getting proper service or not finding the killer pass to play, Basset’s usual urgency in distribution wasn’t present in the first half. As the team picked up in the second, so did he, but for the reigning MVP of the league, we would hope to see just a little bit more in the opening 45 to push the team in attack.
#11 Noah Verhoeven
(6.8): Noah Verhoeven is my favorite newcomer to this Atletico Ottawa side. The season has only just begun, and maybe it was because my expectations for him going into the season were fairly tepid. Still, he’s the player I have the most confidence in to make the right decision in the important moments in transition. It’s what makes him the best player to play as the holding midfielder in the current setup, as his distribution in the final third has left something to be desired these past couple of games. He isn’t 100% suited to the role, of course, but he is the number 1 option there, and with other players demonstrating the ability to play ahead of him, he needs to be shifted back until there’s a more permanent solution. My fear is that he will be run ragged by the end of the season if we don’t find that solution, as he’s played every single minute through the first four games.
#17 Miguel Acosta
(6.2): Miguel Acosta isn’t a midfielder. This rating isn’t his fault whatsoever, he’s being asked to fill a role, and the hope was that his one-on-one defensive ability and above-average ability at short distribution would be able to translate, but it simply isn’t the case. It should be no surprise that the team was far more effective when he returned to his natural position in defense, and he individually did as well. The larger problems of the team don’t need to be attributed to Miguel himself, but the fact remains that he played poorly when put into the new role. He’s a professional, but there’s still a chance that this particular change begins to affect his overall level of play when he returns to defense. The rotation at centre-back seems strong enough to sustain Miguel not being there, but he still needs to be to put our best eleven on the pitch.
#91 Aboubakary Sacko
(7.2): This is the dynamic play from left back we were all hoping to see from Abou Sacko coming into the season. Given he was a relative unknown, we could only speculate. Still, in the ideal scenario, Sacko would have a boatload of pace to be able to cover against the ever-pacier wingers in the CPL and would have the offensive instincts to put the ball in dangerous positions when called upon. For the second game in a row, he should’ve had an assist on a lovely bit of play to Jean-Aniel Assi. In defense, he held up well against Max Ferrari and the overlapping Paris Gee, as Gianni dos Santos was caught up the pitch once or twice in the first half. He still seems a little awkward on the ball, but it’s something he’ll hopefully grow into. Knowing we have a capable, quick left back to rotate with Max Tissot is the biggest bright spot Atletico can take from this game.
#4 Diego Espejo
(6.8): Our Spanish talisman at the back did what he usually did against York, in both good ways and bad. He was very effective in managing Brian Wright physically for most of the context, made clearances when he needed to, and distributed as he needed to, both long and short. Throughout the less effective periods of the game, he wore his frustration on his sleeve and generally felt clunkier than he had been for a long time. The yellow card was a wholly unnecessary challenge in the opposition’s half, and his couple of half chances on corners were more unfortunate than anything. The one encouraging sign is that he’s getting more comfortable moving forward with the ball, which could add another dynamic to the attack as the team looks to be more controlling.
#3 Macdonald Niba
(NR): Coming in for what was, hopefully, precautionary reasons at the very end of the match for Diego Espejo, Niba got his first minutes of the season against York. Hopefully, he’ll be fit enough to get some more sustained minutes to allow some rotation in defense if needed. Regardless, great to see him back out on the pitch, even if just for a short while.
#20 Karl Ouimette
(6.5): An up-and-down performance from Karl after a truly solid one against Valour. The biggest error was the giveaway which allowed Mo Babouli to convert from a free kick. For the most part, Karl was effective in making the correct decision, and perhaps it’s a tad harsh to penalize him for the mistake, but when it’s the decisive one, it sticks in your mind. Much like his partners in defense, Karl made a couple of runs forward that would be an interesting element to our forward play if the central defenders are effective in doing so, as I still trust all of them to cover properly if one of the three does go ahead. The other positive from Karl is that he continues to be tremendously effective in the air. If we can get some better set-piece delivery, I’m sure he’ll find himself on the scoresheet this season.
#5 Luke Singh
(7): Once again, Luke Singh was our most effective defender. Incredibly effective at recovering and stable as ever in the air, his couple of fouls committed were in inconsequential areas, which limits their effect on my perception of his game. Forcing Giantsopoulos into an awkward save from a long-range effort in the second half was not something I was expecting from Luke, but it is welcome to see some ambition from our defenders to join the attack. His distribution was very good as usual, and the left side of our defensive block communicated well against a dangerous combination of Max Ferrari and Paris Gee for most of the first half, only allowing them to generate half chances at best. At this point in the season, Luke is undroppable for me, a true shining light at the back.
#29 Nathan Ingham
(6.4): Frustrating is probably too harsh a word for my impression of Ingham’s latest performance. He dealt with everything but the free kick from Babouli with aplomb. His distribution and decision-making were not as problematic as they were against Valour, and as a result, York truly never felt like they were threats to score. All that said, we’re at a point where we’ve conceded two of our four goals this season to a free kick from the exact same spot. While both would’ve been dealt with by a defender jumping in the wall, Ingham’s positioning required the wall to do its job. It’s not fair to place the blame entirely on him, but at a certain point, he’s going to be forced to account for his teammates not doing their jobs in set-piece situations. Still, he’s a phenomenal shot-stopper from open play when called upon, and thankfully the defense is doing their job enough to where that is happening less and less often.
Our home form is unacceptable. I’m not talking about just this year. It dates back to last season too and comes from the approach the team takes to the game more than anything. At this stage, our most recent home result against every team we played was either a draw or a loss. 7 games winless at home is a severe cause for concern. I understand lining up defensively and having the game come to you when you are playing away, but when you are the home team, you should be showing initiative right from the off. In both of our home games this season, the team has been extraordinarily flat until substitutions were made. The fact that it took 60 minutes for this team to get going and show urgency in front of a crowd that was lending them their support is frustrating as a supporter. Was it unfortunate that we were unable to get something from the final 30 minutes? Of course. But that’s only one-third of the game, and we need to show up for 90 minutes, something this side has not done all year and hasn’t done at home in a very long time. We’ve got a week to regroup and meet a dangerous Pacific team at home next week. I hope we play to the level of our opponents and show urgency right from the first whistle. If we don’t, I fear the worst may be yet to come.
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.
Phil fell in love with soccer at the age of 5. From playing little league footie to gaming on the N64 to playing competitive U18, soccer has always been an ever-present part of his life. As he grew older, he wanted to integrate his other passions into his soccer life and began applying his skills in visual creation with graphic design, photography, and videography to the sport. By bringing these talents together, he continues to enjoy the beautiful game, make friends and showcase the sport in a variety of ways. On top of being the Dub's resident photographer, Phil has a wide portfolio of other soccer content. Check out more of his work here.