By Patrick Gibson
Photo Credits: York United/David Chant
Coming out of the first 45 minutes, I genuinely thought this team had turned a corner. Building on the successful forward play against Halifax, this was the most consistently dangerous the team had looked all season, even more so than the Vancouver game. The vibe at the Glebe Central Pub was upbeat, and despite many missed chances, we all figured more was on the way. Unfortunately, the second half was a different story. As I walked home in the rain, all I could think of was the infamous Man United-Fulham game from David Moyes’ brief spell at Old Trafford. Cross after cross, being sailed into the box with no particular threat being posed. While it wasn’t quite the 81 that happened that day, it felt like it. I was hoping to keep being happy, but the Jekyll and Hyde of the Canadian Premier League appeared before our very eyes once again. On to the ratings:
#19 Malcolm Shaw
(6.3): In his final game before he’s called for international duty, Malcolm didn’t really cover himself in glory. That’s not to say it was his fault by any means, as the service never really came to him inside the 18, but we were definitely left wanting more. It’s difficult to judge a striker that doesn’t get the proper service, but 7/15 passing is not what you want to see out of someone trying to involve himself further in the game. Arguably his best chance of the game was a bit of a fluke as a ball in from Zakaria Bahous, which may have been a shot or a pass, fell to him just outside the 6-yard box. Unfortunately for Malcolm, his touch was heavy, and it fell into the waiting arms of Niko Giantsopolous. On the positive end, he managed to make a couple of successful dribbles and won more of his ground duels than not. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how his time with the T&T national side will affect his game and how much we’ll miss him in the interim.
#18 Samuel Salter
(NR): Salter’s real challenge will begin next week. The good news for him is that he’s going to be going up against the team that he scored against in Vancouver FC. Let’s cross our fingers for that version of Sammy to show up and avoid another crushing result.
#7 Gianni dos Santos
(NR): A brief spell at the end of the game was surprising for dos Santos, as I thought he would’ve been the ideal candidate to replace Zach Verhoven when he came off injured. Nothing much to say for the cameo. Hopefully, this will motivate him to find the missing piece of the puzzle in front of goal, something his counterpart was able to do.
#16 Zach Verhoven
(7): When Zach hit the post on his first shot of the game, I was beyond flummoxed. It made no sense to me that he wasn’t able to find the net. Then mere minutes later, he threw a little swaz on one and found the top right corner of the York United net. Zach being able to provide that surge of urgency from the get-go was refreshing, and it’s clear that his attitude carries across the team when he is allowed to run down the left wing and find the pockets that the defence leaves down that wing. I wasn’t impressed with his defensive work in the first half, there were times he appeared to switch off and made other players recover in his place, but his offensive efforts prior to being substituted more than made up for it. It’s unfortunate that with that change, the air seemed to come out of the team, and the vigor in attack was lost.
#14 Jean-Aniel Assi
(6): For about 20 minutes, Jean-Aniel Assi made Max Ferrari look like me trying to defend him. He was able to consistently beat the York defender for pace down the right wing and found himself in dangerous positions down the right wing. The problem was an inability to find anyone in a dangerous position. The final product from the wings this season has been woefully inconsistent. It begs the question, at what point does the game plan need to change because the side cannot execute it effectively? Teams seem to be content to allow the ATO wingers space in the middle third and even the final third because there is seemingly no threat once a ball needs to be delivered into the mixer. It extends to set pieces just as well and past just Jean-Aniel. In fact, his stats reflect a largely ineffective game. While he did manage 3/4 successful dribbles, he was also terribly ineffective in ground duels, winning only 3 of 11 and only completing 4 passes in 66 minutes.
#22 Zakaria Bahous
(6.5): I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how shocked I was that Bahous wasn’t given a third consecutive start against York. His play against Forge and Halifax was certainly worth maintaining continuity in the middle of the park, despite the level that’s been displayed in that position. When he was substituted in the 67th minute, he was forced into defensive midfield to fill for the rotations made due to injury. He certainly wasn’t as comfortable with the role as he has been further up the pitch, but he also didn’t make a mess of his short time in the position. Giving away a foul shortly after coming on the pitch in a dangerous area was unfortunate, but he did win 4 of 5 ground duels. I don’t want to be seeing him there on a regular basis, as it likely means we’ve got larger problems with the roster, but Bahous did *fine* on Friday night.
#10 Ollie Bassett
(6.8): Ollie was not his usual self in the middle of the park against York. The fact that he managed to hit the post twice in 90 minutes sums basically everything up for Atletico Ottawa in this game. In total, it never seemed like he was the one driving the play like he normally does. In the first half, that was because many others were getting involved and taking some of that weight off his shoulders. In the second half, he wasn’t given the outlets necessary, and the rest of the team wasn’t able to provide what the team needed to continue the onslaught on the York goal. Combine that with 75% pass accuracy, only 1 cross of 6 completed, 1 ground duel of 6 won, and a couple of offsides that weren’t close grants you probably his weakest individual performance of the season. Far from bad, but certainly not to the usual standard.
#11 Noah Verhoeven
(6.3): Returning to the starting eleven for the first time in weeks, Noah Verhoeven’s play wasn’t up to the standard I’ve seen from him this season. While it appeared to be successful on paper, not misplacing a single pass and winning a majority of his tackles and ground duels, watching it felt like he wasn’t finding the right place as a distributor and calming force in the middle of the park. Perhaps that had something to do with the team playing a tad more on the front foot or that because he was playing a tad further forward, he wasn’t granted the opportunities to begin breaks for the team. Regardless, he didn’t look himself. The hope is that he can get back to that level, but it remains to be seen if the same opportunity will be present with Bahous and Acosta cementing their places in the roles that Noah had been asked to fill earlier in the year.
#30 Gabriel Antinoro
(NR): A limited appearance from Antinoro is good to see, as he’d been left off the team sheet entirely against Forge and saw no game time against Halifax. His presence wasn’t truly notable, but being able to accumulate some more U21 minutes is essential to avoiding any potential penalties. Even if we don’t make the playoffs, I shudder to think what the CPL will bring down on the first team that misses the mark.
#17 Miguel Acosta
(7.1): Just prior to Zach Verhoven hitting the first of three posts for Atletico Ottawa on Friday night, Miguel Acosta navigated through the York midfield and defence with the intent of the legendary “Ankara Messi” moment. At times in the first half, his play in the centre of the pitch, particularly as he was going forward, made me loudly exclaim that prime Iniesta had regenerated in front of our very eyes. This is all hyperbole of a supporter in a moment of ecstasy of course, but Acosta’s performance was clearly the best of any Atletico Ottawa player for the full 90 minutes. It’s great to see him succeed in the role for a 3rd consecutive game, particularly given his struggles with the job earlier in the season. 94% pass accuracy, 5/6 accurate long balls, never dispossessed, and 5/6 ground duels one is a winning formula from a defensive midfielder. All that said, I still want him back in his proper position and for a proper defensive midfielder to be signed in July if only to allow our defence to be able to rotate once in a while.
#9 Carl Haworth
(6.1): If the previous two weeks weren’t enough evidence, it’s clear that Carl Haworth is still not up to speed. His performance against York isn’t entirely his fault, as injury forced him to shift into the opposite of his natural right wing. However, that does not excuse the ball and the team coming to a screeching halt once he took possession. Maybe it is a tad harsh, but the energy that Zach Verhoven played with through the first half disappeared when he came off the pitch, and Haworth was his direct replacement. Again, the statistics tell one story, effective passing and managing a decent enough shot, but that came once Gianni dos Santos came on and allowed Carl to go back to his natural position. Unfortunately, his introduction to games comes with such a dramatic drop off in pace because it’s clear that the leadership qualities he possesses are vital.
#15 Maxim Tissot
(6.2): At some point, one of Maxim Tissot’s crosses will find a teammate inside the 18-yard box. Against York, he went 0/4, with the majority of those coming in the second half as he continued to bomb forward, desperate to create something. Unlike previous weeks, his defensive performance more than made up for what was mediocre at best time going forward. Winning 3 tackles, more than 50% of his ground duels, and making 3 clearances. The caveat is those clearances likely weren’t as decisive as we would have liked them to be. The left side of the Atletico Ottawa attack has been in a strange place this season. There’s intent and venom, to be sure. Still, with the focus so heavily on the right wing to play through Jean-Aniel Assi, particularly early in games, the chances to deliver from dos Santos, Tissot, Sacko, and Verhoven have been limited. Perhaps it is that limited opportunity that makes it more impactful that success isn’t being driven consistently from that wing. Early on in this game, it looked to be changing, but it fell apart heavily as the game wore on, especially as Zach came off.
#4 Diego Espejo
(6.8): In what was probably the most surprising statistic of the season, Diego Espejo did not manage a single clearance in this game. In fact, he only registered one aerial duel, another true shock given his involvement in the air throughout the season and the responsibility placed on him to deal with the most dangerous players attacking players on the opposite side. Despite relatively limited defensive actions, he still won 3 of 3 tackles and managed to distribute effectively going forward with 4/6 accurate long balls and 10 passes into the final third (accounting for about 20% of his total). An uneventful day for Diego leaves for an uneventful rating, which is oftentimes a good sign for a defender, but unfortunately, the result didn’t bear fruit.
#5 Luke Singh
(5.8): Any own goal is unfortunate. The one Luke Singh conceded is the ultimate version of it because it felt easily avoidable. Luke only managed a glancing touch on the ball as it was whipped in from the right, but that touch was enough to make Sean Melvin second guess the trajectory and leave him beaten at his far post. Defensively, he also wasn’t called upon for much. Luke did not make a single tackle in his 67 minutes and only contested one duel, so it becomes difficult for him to do much positively to try and counteract his own goal. One area he did excel was in his forward distribution, as he played a beautiful long ball into the final third almost instantly after the goal and finished with 5 accurate long balls. He’s been prone to one mistake per game so far this season, and often we’ve been able to get away with it, but this was one instance where that wasn’t possible.
#20 Karl Ouimette
(6.6): Outside of a very poor attempt at a cross in the first half aside, Karl Ouimette had a fairly effective game. He managed his positioning well against the rather quick left side from York, and found himself on the winning end of 60% of his duels and all of his tackles. Further, his ability to recover when he did find himself being challenged for pace was extremely effective, including one instance in the first half where he did well to shield the ball near the corner flag before helping to orchestrate a breakout in possession. That said, he didn’t have the greatest of attacking games as the right back and was then shifted back into the middle following Luke Singh’s substitution, which forced him to play far more defensively. He’s solid as ever at the back; long may it continue.
#1 Sean Melvin
(6.4): Sean Melvin’s day in goal was certainly not as eventful as his previous outing, even if he did see two go past him on the day. It’s hard to fault him for either, as the deflection from Luke Singh was a freak thing that forced a reaction that he couldn’t make in time and the second off of poor set-piece defending. That said, he didn’t do much to offset those results. His two saves were potshots taken directly at him towards the end of the first half, and his long distribution continues to be lacking. With Nathan Ingham back on the bench and closer to returning from injury, it’ll be interesting to see how long Sean Melvin tends the goal for Atletico Ottawa and if he’ll play well enough to force a controversy.
It’s so deflating that this team cannot conjure up a full 90-minute performance week to week. For 45 minutes, we were all convinced of something new, but then something old came back to bite us. Acosta and Verhoven, as the drivers of the attack, felt like the team was blossoming and not relying on the same man to carry the load, but little did we know we were on borrowed time offensively. The second half deflated any sense of optimism I had from the first 45, as no matter what we seem to do, we’ll be treated to at least one uninspired half of football. It’ll be a coin flip as to which one, but it seems like it’ll be there no matter what. The worst part is that we blew a lead. To be ahead and to have likely deserved to be further ahead based on the ferocity of our counterattack that early in the game and then finish like that is deflating as all hell. I’m pretty sure this team is more than just a DM away from actually becoming a cohesive unit. There are plenty of players I’m not married to the idea of starting or even seeing take the pitch, but the reality is we won’t be able to make many changes in the summer. It might be soon time to realize that we can’t keep talking about “get right” games because this feels like who we are.
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.