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CCSG by the Numbers: ATO Defenders in 2023

By Alexander Brazier Rymek

Looking back at the 2023 season, there were a few noticeable differences from 2022 when it came to on-field results, the most obvious being that our defending prowess took a nosedive, especially later on in the year. In the following article I will break down Atlético’s defensive corps from the past season, in order to find out what exactly went wrong. Along with that, I will try and highlight some positives I saw both on the field and in the statistics and use their contract status as of early November to make an armchair decision as to whether I would like them back for next season.

To do so, I will be ranking the players by WPA grade and attaching both their player cards and statistical profiles so that you can see their rankings for yourself. If you are unfamiliar with my work, it is advised to read this article breaking down what goes into the grading system and what all the numbers I present actually mean. A summary of each player's grades, ranking, and contract status will be available at the end of the article. Onto the rankings!

#9: Aboubakary Sacko

Coming in last place is Sacko, who came over from Le Havre-B during this past offseason. Although part of the blame for his bad grade and rankings can be attributed to his lengthy injury and thus lack of game time the entire back half of the season, he was underwhelming when he did play. Almost all of his offensive contributions came during the July 9 home match vs Valour, his passing left much to be desired, and his lack of muscle made for a mediocre defensive impact.

CONTRACT STATUS: Under contract through 2024

Seeing as he is here for next year regardless, I would like to see him put on some weight and work on his distribution in 2024. He did show offensive flashes, and his tackling/interceptions were surprisingly good, so hopefully he can develop his all-around game for next year. He will only be 21, so there is still time to improve.

#8: Zachary Roy

Due to extremely limited game time, his percentile rankings return a lot of extremes and are almost useless. However, his Pass% and Duel% rankings were both middle of the road enough to be semi-conducive to a proper rating and were decently high, which bodes well for the future. He achieved a 28 WPA grade in 2022 with more minutes played, but again, using 2023 stats as a comparable is futile.


Personally, I would love to see his option triggered, but contingent on the fact he gets more game time. He showed flashes in 2022, notably in the September 24 visit to Spruce Meadows where he started and shut down Cavalry’s entire left flank, but simply wasn't given the same opportunities in 2023. Hopefully that changes next season, as like Sacko he will still only be 21, and has lots of room to grow.

#7 MacDonald Niba

The first defender with a large enough sample to draw accurate conclusions, and to me, the most disappointing. Forgetting his worrying injury susceptibility, he regressed when he was on the field compared to 2022, when he graded at a 69 WPA. He performed worse in almost every category, including his passing, which to his defenders was his greatest attribute, along with his strength. His stats reflected this, as in 2022 he achieved a Passing grade of 76.8, compared to an alarming 24.8 in 2023. Factoring his inability to remain healthy with his performance on the field made for a very lacklustre season.

CONTRACT STATUS: Out-of-contract

Unfortunately, he is the first of the defenders that I won’t mind seeing go, if it comes to that. As touched on above, he couldn’t stay healthy and wasn’t up to par when he was.

#6 Maxim Tissot

It was a season of extremes for Tissot in 2023, with a lot of good defensive metrics but some very average to below-average offensive metrics. Unfortunately, as a Full-Back he has to do both, and couldn’t quite muster a solid attacking season aside from a few very well-placed free kicks. This was reflected in his very poor Passing rating of 27.6, although he did achieve an overall WPA grade just below the league average of 59.3. This was a slight improvement from 2022 when he graded at 56.2, but not enough to make a significant impact.

CONTRACT STATUS: Out-of-contract

Tissot is another defender I wouldn’t mind letting go. Something has to be said for his selection as a captain however, and if he does come back I would prefer him playing more of a leadership/mentoring role for the younger fullbacks like Roy and Sacko, rather than as an everyday starter.

#5 Luke Singh

The first of our loanee Centre-Backs this season, and the lowest graded. It was a very disorganized season for Singh, as evidenced by his excellent passing stats, but also by his lacklustre tackling and remarkably low blocked shots for a CB. I think he could have been a very useful swiss-army knife defender if he just tightened up his defence. He played for FC Edmonton in 2022 and actually improved from his 54.8 WPA grade that season, but like Tissot, not enough to matter.


As much as I like to have good ball-playing defenders, I believe there are better options available that offer slightly more behind the ball. I doubt he gets loaned to the CPL for a third year straight anyway, but if he does and ATO bites, I would like to see him primarily on the bench.

#4 Miguel Acosta

Acosta’s statistics and grades were greatly influenced by the positions he played on the field. Having had stints at Right-Back, Centre Defensive Midfield, and Centre-Back, his statistical impact was too widely distributed to highlight any strengths or weaknesses, and he was graded as a CB simply because of where he finished the season. In 2022 he graded at 76.5 by virtue of being allowed to play one position all year, and if that were the case in 2023 I’m sure he would’ve rated just as well.


I do not think I am in the minority when I say I would absolutely want Acosta back for 2024. He is a talisman, able to play multiple positions (even if they don’t play nice with my model), and performs well wherever he is on the field. Hopefully next season he will be given a consistent position and allowed to thrive.

#3 Karl Ouimette

Ouimette had an extremely solid defensive season at Centre-Back in 2023, highlighted by a 90.4th percentile ranking in Clearances. His 87.9 Strength grade more than made up for a lower-than-average tackling ranking, and although he didn’t contribute as much going forwards, I think his work behind the ball made up for it.

CONTRACT STATUS: Under contract through 2024

One of the surprises when I ran the numbers, I think his occasional miscues in distribution overshadowed his great work protecting the net. If he improves on his sightly mediocre passing accuracy and works on his tackles, he could be very useful for ATO in 2024. Paired with a more forward-looking CB partner at the back he could thrive.

#2 Tyr Duhaney-Walker

Following up from Ouimette, possibly the biggest surprise ratings-wise was Duhaney-Walker. Although it was without a doubt a product of the small sample size, when watching his few starts he definitely impressed enough to merit at least a good portion of his rankings. His Discipline, Clearances, and Blocks rankings are exaggerated and will regress in a larger sample size, but he certainly showed promise.

CONTRACT STATUS: Out-of-contract

It is unclear what type of extensions are available for his U-Sports deal from 2023, however I would be more than happy to have him back in 2024. Even ignoring his statistical profile, he was amazing when he played and certainly shows potential for the future. Like Roy, he was a victim of being underplayed, and if either come back I would like to see that change for the better. I know playing young defenders is risky in a system like the one Carlos González favours, but I believe both he and Roy were better options than some of the players playing over them in 2023.

#1 Diego Espejo

Another excellent season in the books for the young Spaniard, capped by 95+ percentile rankings in Clearances, Duel%, and Aerial%. Even though he chipped in with more goals, his worse Passing and Blocks regressed his WPA just slightly from his 2022 grade of 72.2. He was hampered by injury later in the season, but was nonetheless our best defender both on the field and by WPA.


Unfortunately for ATO, our best defender in 2023 is also the one most likely not to return for 2024. After two amazing seasons in the CPL, it is unlikely he will be loaned back, both from a club and player perspective. Although anything is possible (he did return for 2023, after all), and it goes without saying I would love him back, he is most likely departing for next season.


With all the rankings out of the way, I believe it should be noted that the average defensive WPA grade decreased from 63.3 in 2022 (well above average) to 58 in 2023 (just slightly below average). There can be many factors blamed for this, but I think most at fault was too much turnover from 2022 and too many changes in formation. If we try to retain more pieces for 2024 than we did coming into 2023, and find a formation and stick with it, I think we should be able to bounce back from what was undoubtedly a disappointing season defensively.

Also notable is the fact that the trend of our fullbacks playing badly continued into this season (Acosta aside, who has been our only fullback to ever play more minutes than average in a season and grade above a 60). Our left side especially, highlighted by Tissot and Sacko this season, was not up to par and historically is our worst-graded positional group. Hopefully for next season we can find someone to protect that flank properly and prevent teams from exploiting that weakness.

Next up are the midfielder grades, which by all accounts will be a shorter article as there were only 4 that finished the season with ATO (Antinoro was classed as a wide midfielder, and thus will be ranked with the forwards). See you then!



Player (Position)

WPA Rating

2024 Contract?


Diego Espejo (CB)


Loan Expired


Tyr Walker (CB)


Out of Contract


Karl Ouimette (CB)


Under Contract


Miguel Acosta (CB)




Luke Singh (CB)


Loan Expired


Maxim Tissot (LB)


Out of Contract


MacDonald Niba (CB)


Out of Contract


Zachary Roy (RB)




Aboubakary Sacko (LB)


Under Contract


About Alexander:

When he isn't busy playing or watching sports (or going to school at uOttawa), Alexander is busy managing his Atlético Ottawa database, which he started in 2020, and tracks everything you can think of about the club and its players. He also runs a Twitter account dedicated to analyzing and rating CPL players using statistics, CPL by the Numbers.

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