By Patrick Gibson
Photo Credits: Freestyle Photography / Valerie Wutti
As much as I want to reflect positively on the overall performance that the team displayed, I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth. Any result like this one will always be a gut punch, but there are so many other extenuating circumstances that just makes me feel worse. Don’t get me wrong, the team as a whole and the individuals played well; in fact, it was our best home performance of the season, though that’s really not saying much. I was gonna come in here and start out on the officials for the goal, but I’m going to remain calm and simply point out that the assistant was in a terrible position to make any sort of decision on a true photo finish of an offside decision. General thoughts on this whole situation will come at the end of the article, as per usual. I’d say that I’m at a loss for words, but everything below this will heavily contradict that point. On to the ratings:
#19 Malcolm Shaw
(5.5): ATO’s all-time appearance leader turned in his worst performance of the season against Forge. In a game where the rest of the attacking play, particularly in the second half, looked forceful and full of intent, Malcolm’s contributions were minimal. It would be one thing to be completely invisible while up top, but the true negative was the cheap fouls that Malcolm gave away deep in Forge territory. On multiple occasions, unnecessary fouls on defenders either killed the momentum that the side had built or allowed Forge to remove itself from a pressure situation that was created. Combining these two factors is why, at least partly, I believe we didn’t score. We’re through ¼ of the league season at this stage, with two cup games to look back on. Our strikers have scored twice. That’s simply not good enough.
#18 Samuel Salter
(NR): The brief sojourn onto the pitch for Salter did not produce much of note. I’d argue that he probably should’ve been brought on sooner, but given his performances this season, I don’t know if that could be justified. This is our 4th season, and we’ve had exactly one season that the collective has been proud of from all of our strikers put together. This isn’t a winning formula.
#7 Gianni dos Santos
(6.7): The frustrating thing about the performance from dos Santos in this game is that he always seemed to be in the right position. He found gaps in the Forge defence to challenge Triston Henry on multiple occasions, but he just couldn’t get the job done. Having 2 big chances missed is heartbreaking, given the circumstances. Part of me wishes he tried to chip Henry when he was played through on goal, as Henry continued to play quite far out of his goal when Forge was in possession, but understood why he took his touches to try and beat him one on one. The problem was that he didn’t account for the defender chasing him. All told Gianni’s wing wasn’t driving the play for much of the game, but when the ball came to him, he was dangerous. He just has to find the final piece of the puzzle, and the problem is that I don’t know how much more we can wait for it to be found.
#16 Zach Verhoven
(6.4): The normally effective super sub was held in check for his appearance on Saturday. Brought on to try and take advantage of two fullbacks playing with yellow cards, Verhoven’s first couple of minutes on the pitch were strange, as it looked like he drifted too far inside on numerous occasions trying to make something happen. This left Maxim Tissot isolated out on the left, and if not for some help from Zakaria Bahous, could’ve been a vulnerability to be exploited. Once Forge made their changes, Verhoven wasn’t allowed to really get anything going down the left wing. Additionally, he was unable to find his usual spaces when cutting inside to facilitate from the edge of the area either. A frustrating afternoon for Zach, and the question remains if he’s someone that should be getting a start soon, maybe just to shake things up.
#14 Jean-Aniel Assi
(7): After a sub-par performance against his former team last week, Jean-Aniel Assi turned in a much better performance against Forge. The focal point of the attack being down the right wing certainly gave him plenty of opportunities to take on defenders. Winning 6 of 8 ground duels while playing so far forward is a recipe for success, and his two successful dribbles to get into dangerous areas provided good chances for ATO to capitalize. It wasn’t perfect, he still does take too much time to make his initial move at times, and his crossing still leaves much to be desired. There are elements of his game that frustrate me, and the final product isn’t always there, but I have to give credit when it’s due. Assi showed up for the 60+ minutes he was on the pitch, and that version of him will contribute more goal contributions. Right?
#22 Zakaria Bahous
(7.1): The normally solid hand of Zakaria Bahous stepped up in the middle of the park on Saturday. He had suffered previously from not being able to win a majority of his duels. Against Forge, he managed to win 58%, which is not perfect but certainly an improvement. 84% pass accuracy with 2 accurate long balls is evidence of a distributor starting to find the flow of the game. The one nitpicks I will have about his game is his penchant for having his eyes get a little too big for his stomach when in front of the goal. Particularly the one effort off of a corner where he tried to take it the first time with his left foot, and it sailed harmlessly away. Even if there are positives to be taken from that, as a pang of hunger for a goal from the midfield is generally an appreciated trait, sometimes it would be nice to settle the ball in that particular situation. Regardless, there is a bit of a glut in the rotation of our two more advanced midfielders; with Verhoeven, Bassett, and Bahous all playing well, it’s a good problem to have. Hopefully, the results follow.
#10 Ollie Bassett
(7.4): Before anything else, I want to speak on behalf of myself and hopefully the rest of the ATO supporters as a whole. Ollie, you have nothing to apologize for. These things happen in games, and given the rest of the performance you provided on Saturday and the form you’ve shown throughout the season, we would be fools to start piling on you for any reason. As demonstrated thoroughly against Forge, Ollie is the key to the engine for this offence. He drives play everywhere, and while he may not have won a tremendous amount of ground duels, the situations we found ourselves in offensively always had him as a key contributor. Long ball to Gianni, dangerously placed corners that we couldn’t get on the end of, or shots from long range that Triston Henry managed to get to, Bassett was everywhere offensively and deserved to have his name on the scoresheet in some way. We christened TD Place as Olliewood for a reason, to allow him to be the star he really is.
#11 Noah Verhoeven
(NR): Much like Sam Salter’s appearance, there’s nothing really notable to say about Noah Verhoeven’s time on the pitch against Forge. 8 touches, and 7 passes, all in only less than ten minutes total of work. It’ll be interesting to see how the midfield rotates going into next week and beyond, especially if Bahous is able to continue to play as well as he has.
#17 Miguel Acosta
(7.2): A much better showing in the middle of the park from Miguel Acosta was down to the defensive work he did. Winning all your tackles and managing 5 interceptions alone is often enough for a solid performance. Mix in a far more effective game offensively, with a shot that forced a save out of Triston Henry and minimal but important distribution, and the result is an impressive all-around game from the position with the biggest question mark in this team. Given how up and down the performance has been just ahead of the defensive line, not getting any result from this game is incredibly frustrating. In further context, knowing that there was potential he wouldn’t be available for the game after his knock against Cavalry, it’s better news to see that Miguel isn’t going to be missing any time, especially if he’s able to keep this up.
#9 Carl Haworth
(6.5): For the first time this season, the official club captain was able to make an appearance for Atletico Ottawa. Carl Haworth’s debut wasn’t much of anything as a performance, but his presence was certainly needed out on the pitch. It’s clear his being out on the pitch will be able to provide veteran leadership that wasn’t always present this season. There were times down the right wing when he wasn’t provided with the ball that he may have been able to make something out of. Ultimately, he’ll still need to find his feet, as will any player coming back from injury, but another option down the right with his skillset will hopefully help us find the back of the net more often, particularly due to his proficiency for crossing.
#15 Maxim Tissot
(6.4): Late in the game, it was evident that Maxim Tissot was starting to lose just a little bit of pace. The substitutions from Forge threw a new wrinkle at Tissot, and he constantly found himself having to recover down his flank. He wasn’t explicitly caught out too far up the pitch at any stage, as he has been prone to do previously, which is potentially cause for concern late in games if he can’t continue to recover. This positional deficit normally explains some of the errors that occur and lead to goals, but there have been enough times that Tissot has contributed offensively to offset that. No accurate crosses and only one successful dribble going forward meant that this wasn’t the case on Saturday. With the health of our other left-backs in question, here’s hoping the performances pick up, as we may not have other options going forward.
#4 Diego Espejo
(8): If anyone deserved to walk away with a result on the ATO side today, it’s Diego Espejo. There are certain unfortunate circumstances that prevent this rating from being higher (namely the strange yellow he picked up in the first half) but the positive elements so heavily outweigh the negatives that they almost aren’t even there. He didn’t commit a single foul, didn’t lose a single duel, and managed to make eight clearances. It was a stellar defensive performance let down by his leg being just a tad too long to make David Choiniere onside in the dying moments of the game. Even offensively, he was sensational. To make 6 passes into the final third shows real initiative from the back, as well as his ability to switch the play, going 5 of 7 in completed long balls. His substitution at the end was clearly to just throw everything at the wall, but I’m more convinced that he would’ve been able to help much more, given how well he played. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking, but one thing I know is that without Diego, this could’ve been a lot worse.
#46 Zachary Roy
(NR): I was glad to see Zach Roy be able to step back out on the pitch for the first time this season as well. The young man provides boatloads of pace down the right wing, and while there is some depth in that position as it stands, he feels like someone that should be getting a look in to try and add something different to the side. His getting additional minutes will, of course, also help to solidify the necessary u21 minutes for the season, which aren’t looking to be a problem, but it’s always good to be sure.
#5 Luke Singh
(6.5): The largest issue with Luke Singh’s game against Forge was that it felt like he wasn’t being proactive defensively. His style remains relatively passive when taking on quick transition plays, and it leaves me a little scared that he will give the player on the ball more than enough time to make the correct decision. It didn’t manage to bite us in particular in this game, but it has before, and it may again. That said, much like Diego, he provided a certain bite going forward, particularly with his long distribution. That part of his game has been present on multiple occasions this season. There are the makings of a really good player in Luke, but he may be overcorrecting on certain issues related to past complaints about his defensive style. Being able to be disruptive defensively without being too aggressive is a fine line to walk, but Luke must find it to unlock his full potential.
#20 Karl Ouimette
(6.6): There’s something to be said about a marauding Karl Ouimette run forward. Sometimes, it looks like a piece to unlock a defence, while others have it more as a misplaced ambition that leaves the rest of the attack confused about its purpose. Today, his venture into the final third did not provide the impetus that was needed, especially as Assi and Bassett were so effective. He wasn’t as active with the ball at his feet as Singh and Espejo, but he did manage to complete a couple of long balls forward. The question mark comes in defense, as while he did recover well and make a couple of key blocks, he only won 40% of his ground duels and gave away two fouls. One was in a relatively innocuous position so that he can be forgiven for that, but here’s hoping that the rest of the game solidifies and comes up to a level that we’ve seen in him before.
#1 Sean Melvin
(6.7): I feel like a broken record talking about the concern I feel on corners and set pieces with Sean Melvin in goal. He certainly collected the ball better today than he had in previous matches, but that was mostly from open play. On corners, he still looked out of place on a number of occasions, and if it weren’t for the post and some timely aerial clearances, the result could’ve been much worse. The one caveat to his performance is that the goal clearly wasn’t his fault. He did very well to get down and stop the initial shot, but given the circumstance was never going to recover to prevent the second opportunity. 3 of 10 on long balls again is a worrisome statistic, which has led to short goal kicks to center-backs being the priority now. It was a serviceable performance, but I’m still waiting to see Nathan Ingham back.
Normally, there’s a fairly extensive summary of the result included here at the end. Rather than that, this week, I want to leave you with two facts. This loss marks the 9th consecutive game without a win at TD Place. Also, our current record stands at 1-2-4 through seven games. At the same point in 2021, when we finished bottom of the table, we started the year 2-1-4. As much as I want to stomach this result against a good team, I just can’t. It’s nothing to do with the players and almost everything to do with circumstance. Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing something over again and expecting different results, so surely we’ll win against Halifax. Won’t we?
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.