As fans of Atlético Ottawa prepare for their first ever home game on August 14th, the players depart ‘The KickOff’ with a “bitter taste” in their mouth, but top 4 is still the goal according to Captain, Milovan Kapor.
Much was expected of Atlético Madrid’s counterparts in their first full season in the Canadian Premier League, but, despite a longer pre-season Ottawa struggled to impose themselves during their time in Winnipeg, coming home in last place.
“I think we lacked a bit of conviction,” said Head Coach Mista talking to CCSG. “We are getting used to each other, we have very good players but unfortunately we have not been able to play games as intensely as other teams in the league.”
Comments have been made about the lack of sharpness and apparent greater fitness levels of the other 7 teams during the first part of the 2021 season.
Club captain Milovan Kapor told us he doesn’t think they were fitter, but felt like Atléti “lacked concentration” in key moments with absentees and injuries also playing their part.
“Two months in Spain was a lot, but a lot of guys picked up some injuries and new players were being signed even in the last week,” said the 29-year-old Canadian center-back.
“We were missing players (Telfer, Soto, Webb), but even so, we expected to do much better.
“However, we can’t focus on the past now, we have to look towards the future and focus on winning our next game.”
Atlético Ottawa travel to the east coast, where they will face HFX Wanderers for the first time this season and Mista is hoping his side can “continue to add and grow as a team and as a club.”
“We must not forget that it is our first season,” - Altético Ottawa Head Coach, Mista.
Having started slowly, Atlético Ottawa grew into themselves as the bubble went on, with fans witnessing the “best 20 minutes of football” during the team’s final game against Pacific FC.
“The biggest low for the team and for me personally ,” Kapor said, “has to be the final game against Pacific.”
“Giving away a penalty, that I thought was a little soft, but he called it anyway, then not being able to get everybody on the same page. That’s unacceptable.
“I’ll put my hand up as the captain and take the blame for that because I should be setting the example and making sure everyone keeps a cool head.”
Consistently inconsistent, Atlético thriving for continuity
During Ottawa’s time in Winnipeg they didn’t start the same XI more than once, with their Spanish coach even changing formation for a couple of games.
This lack of consistency wasn’t ideal but as a “professional you have to do your best to adapt to it,” Serbian-Canadian Kapor said.
Kapor played alongside Drew Beckie, Keesean Ferdinand, Brandon John as well as Viti Martinez all in the space of 8 games.
“I am a coach who likes that all my players are given their opportunity,” said Mista, “because that increases the level of demand and performance within the side.”
However, some changes were forced upon the Spanish coach.
“We have made so many changes because we have suffered a lot by having so little rest and so many games.
“We suffered injuries and we had to adapt to it.”
The injuries picked up during this first part of the season were compounded by the knocks picked up during the pre-season - exemplified by the season ending injury picked up by defender Brandon John.
“Losing Brandon was a big blow, not just defensively but as a voice in the dressing room,” Kapor said reflecting on his defensive partner from the 2020 CPL season.
“He was pivotal in PEI (Prince Edward Island) and the staff did well bringing him back into the team gradually.
“But I know right away it was something serious when he looked at me and just shook his head.”
The packed schedule, with games being moved to adjust to the heat wave that hit Manitoba was a cause for concern for all sides, with injuries being picked up by all sides.