By Joey Huneault
Atlético Ottawa played their first away match of the 2023 CPL Season, travelling to IG Field to face Valour FC. While Ottawa was riding high off a 3-1 win over HFX the Wednesday prior in the Voyageurs Cup, Valour was looking to make a statement after losing to semi-pro club TSS Rovers (L1BC) on the same day.
And make a statement they did. After a strong buildup from the midline, winger Kian Williams whipped a cross into the box. Chilean midfielder and Valour captain Diego Gutiérrez headed the ball cleanly past Nathan Ingham and neatly into the bottom left corner. The clock had yet to hit the 3-minute mark.
After almost half an hour of fouls, flubbed shots and a yellow card to Valour’s starman Anthony Novak, Ottawa started a pair of strong attacks. An intercepted ball caught by Wednesday's MVP Diego Espejo was cleared up to Jean-Aniel Assi, who used the outside of his foot to bounce the ball to Gabriel Antinoro. Antinoro took the shot from far, which was blocked by keeper Rayane-Yuba Yesli. Malcolm Shaw made a run to fire in a rebound but started from an offside position.
The second attacking run came a minute after, as a long ball from Karl Ouimette found Shaw at the edge of Valour’s defensive third. He moved around a pair of defenders before passing out wide to the unmarked Cape Verdean Gianni dos Santos. Dos Santos took the ball for a walk into the 18-yard before putting his left foot through the ball, dinking it off the fingertips of Yesli and into the bottom corner, bringing the score back to level. Both teams battled it out for another goal before the half, with Assi and Mateo de Brienne both missing clear-cut chances for their respective teams before the whistle blew.
The second half saw both teams continue to struggle to take the full 3 points. Valour had a good claim for a handball in the box, though this came following what seemed to be a handball of their own. Still, much like the home opener the week prior, where the call against Halifax went unawarded, and neither penalty was called.
While Valour felt like the stronger of the two squads throughout the match, especially the second half, a lack of composure in front of the net and a lack of finishing from clear-cut chances forced both teams off the field at the final whistle with a point apiece.
Diego Espejo was Ottawa’s leading man by and far. Across 70 touches, he contributed 41 accurate passes and won all 3 of his tackles. A yellow card for a bad foul wasn’t enough to take away from his 7 headed clearances, and 100% aerial duels won.
You can next catch your Boys in Stripes on April 29th at 5 pm, as they take on York United FC in the first Trillium Derby of the year at home at TD Place. Join Capital City Supporters Group at Glebe Central Pub before and after the match for a pint at Ottawa’s Temple of Football.