By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Freestyle Photography / Tim Austen
Atlético Ottawa has escaped the bottom of the league! Following a comprehensive 2-0 victory against the Halifax Wanderers, Atlético occupies the fifth spot in the CPL table. It felt like a win that Los Rojiblancos had been building towards for a few weeks now, and being back in the win column - especially at home - will be a relief for Carlos Gonzalez and his side. Here’s the news from the postgame press conference:
As always, Carlos Gonzalez was the first member of Atlético Ottawa to take the podium. He touched on the crucial nature of the hard-fought win against Halifax and the confidence it will instill in Atlético going forward.
“It was a very important win today. I think it was a win that we were looking for for a lot of months ago. A win that the fans deserve. The people that come every single day to the stadium to cheer up the team, they deserve it first. Secondly, for the players, a very important win so that we start to have better feelings at home, and they start to have a little bit more confidence,” he said.
And what a week it has been for one of those players in particular! Gonzalez was full of praise for Malcolm Shaw, who was named to the Trinidad and Tobago preliminary roster earlier in the week and had a hand in both goals on Saturday.
“It's a great week for Malcolm that he ended in a great way, being important for the team, scoring a goal, fighting, defending, giving solutions in attack. So, yeah, happy and proud about the job that he did,” Gonzalez said.
Shaw himself participated in the post-match press conference and talked about how special a week it was for him.
“I’m looking to go [to the national team] and prove myself as well as finally get off the mark here this season in regular season play,” he said. “I’m just looking to carry the momentum going forward. So I’m happy. Definitely a big week for me.”
While scoreless in what felt like a must-win game, Carlos Gonzalez gambled with a triple substitution just after the hour mark. The substitutes (Verhoven, Verhoeven, and Howarth) made an immediate impact on the game - especially Zach Verhoven, who continued his sparkling form from a substitute capacity.
“The three subs were a key moment in the game. We were feeling a couple of minutes ago that the team was dropping a little bit, and the energy wasn't enough…The guys came out with appropriate energy and commitment, and they impacted the game. At the end of the day, I think that this was probably the thing that changed the game in a certain moment that we were suffering,” Gonzalez said.
Shaw, who was put through on goal by Zach Verhoven in the build-up to the first goal and assisted by Noah Verhoeven for the second, said that Atlético “won the game from the bench.”
Carlos Gonzalez noted early in the press conference that he was happy with the team not just for creating chances but for continuing to press for a second goal after scoring and still keeping a clean sheet. Shaw was happy to elaborate on this.
“I’d say 80 percent of the game is mental. As for the second goal, I think just scoring at home in front of our fans injected so much in us, and we’re able to just push through and really push for the second to seal the game. I think on the mental side of things, the fans really helped us tremendously with that.”
Both Gonzalez and Shaw were once again pleased and thankful for the over 5,000 fans who populated TD Place Stadium on Saturday night.
“Today, once I left the field, I saw happy faces,” Gonzalez said. “So I think that that's the most important thing, that you come here and we have the possibility to make people happy. It's the first [win], but it’s not going to be the last one.”
Shaw added his own thoughts.
“The Ottawa fans really push us, and they make the game here special. They're such contributors to growing the game here in the city, in Canada…We will continue to get wins for you guys. We will continue to get wins for you guys and give you guys what you deserve,” he said.
Off the pitch, Shaw noted he was able to have a conversation and receive congratulations from Halifax captain Andre Rampersad, who also plays for the Trinidad and Tobago national team.
“In a matter of a few weeks, I'll see him, and we'll be not going against each other but with each other. So I'm looking forward to that for sure,” he said.
Similarly, Coach Gonzalez shed some light on a photograph taken between the Halifax and Ottawa players after the game. He explained the significance of the gesture.
“We all know that the Halifax area, they are living a bad moment with all these fires. So anything that we can do to support or to help in any way that we can…I hope that the situation is solved really soon over there,” he said.
Donations in support of those affected by the wildfires in Nova Scotia can be made here.
Atlético are back on the road next week, looking to hold onto and improve upon their mid-table position. They face York United at York Lions Stadium at 7:30 pm on Friday. We hope to see you at the Glebe Central Pub for the CCSG live watch-along!
Ben Ralph is a die-hard football fan and a journalism student at Carleton. He has been supporting Everton through the ups and downs (but mostly the downs) and could not believe his luck when he stumbled across Atlético Ottawa in 2021. Now part of the Atleti faithful, his dream has always been to write football stories, and he is excited to join other fans as writers for CCSG. His football journalist idols are James Richardson and Charlie Eccleshare from The Football Cliches Podcast.