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The Forward Press: ATO hangs on for a draw against red-hot Pacific FC

By Ben Ralph

Photo Credits: Pacific FC / Sheldon Mack

Atlético Ottawa is playing high-octane football right now. With new signings and a return to TD Place Stadium on its horizon, Atléti ran out of Starlight Stadium with a hard-earned point. Ollie Bassett was in the spotlight again with another vintage ‘Olliewood’ performance, and he and Carlos Gonzalez joined the post-match presser after a 2-2 draw to Pacific FC. Here are the highlights:

Firstly, both Bassett and Gonzalez said they were pleased with the draw on the road, with Bassett calling it a “good point” against a team “high with confidence.”

“To concede from two set pieces and then go down to ten men for the last ten minutes, I think to kind of fight back from that and walk away with someone from the game, I think it's something that we can build on for the rest of the season,” Basset said.

Photo Credits: Pacific FC / Sheldon Mack

Gonzalez echoed the sentiments of Bassett, calling it a “point to build on.” He quickly praised the energy his players showed against Pacific, which had won its last four games on the bounce.

“The players, they show desire. Desire and energy to run 90 meters and to step into the other team's box with that speed,” Gonzalez said. “We knew that in certain moments, Pacific were going to give situations with not enough balance of defenders over there. So we had the spaces to break into, and I think that we did it great.”

Bassett addressed set pieces – a threat that has vexed Atléti defenders since the beginning of the season.

“It's obviously frustrating for us to concede from two set pieces. I think we conceded the first one ten seconds before halftime and then the second one maybe 90 seconds after the second-half kick-off. So obviously frustrating and something that we'll look on and try to improve at,” Bassett said.

When Atlético plays Pacific, it always promises a fierce game, and this match was no different. Coach Gonzalez said there is a rivalry building between the two clubs.

“This speaks quite well about us because at the end of the day, Pacific is a strong team in the league, " Gonzalez said. “ This means that we are doing things in the appropriate way.”

For Ollie Bassett, whose CPL journey started at Pacific two years ago, playing Pacific is a little more personal.

Photo Credits: Pacific FC / Sheldon Mack

“You always have that little bit of an extra buzz to try and get one over your old team, but I think overall you just treat it like any other game, and they're just another opponent that we want to beat,” he said.

Gonzalez commented on the ongoing Gold Cup and AFCON U-23, where seven CPL players went to represent their countries earlier in the month. Gonzalez said it shows that “the league is growing,” and he would one day like to one day see the league be put on pause for the number of players going to represent their countries.

Losing established players like Luke Singh and Malcolm Shaw to the Gold Cup this month has called for Gonzalez to be creative with his lineups. Gonzalez highlighted a change against Pacific that saw Miguel Acosta return to his favored right-back position while Zakaria Bahous filled his space in the middle of midfield.

Photo Credits: Pacific FC / Sheldon Mack

“It was part of the plan. We knew that we need people of good fitting inside, and we also knew that Pacific had good threats in the wing,” Gonzalez said. “[We were] trying to have players that could make us control the ball in certain moments and also have Miguel Acosta in his natural position and that it will be a player who could neutralize Sellouf.”

Elsewhere on the pitch, Gonzalez addressed an injury concern over Sacko, who was subbed uncomfortably just after the seventy-minute mark, saying it was “not something worrying” and the player was still getting used to the number of minutes.

“It was a game with a lot of handicaps for us because we have players in the national team, because we have injuries, and we came here in not the best situation. But I'm very proud of the job of the players and how they fought this game because I think that is a great point in which we are going to build it.”

Finally, Ollie Bassett addressed the heated nature of the past few games for Atléti, which has produced eleven goals in the past two games alone.

Photo Credits: Pacific FC / Sheldon Mack

“I think the bare minimum that is required to have any chance of winning a game is to kind of compete and match the intensity of your opposition…as long as we can keep doing that, the players that we have and the ability we have within the team and the group, I think that will start speaking for itself,” Bassett said.

Atlético returns to TD Place Stadium this week, where it hasn’t lost in the past two matches. The next game will be against Valour, which sits one point ahead of Atlético in the standings. By then, Ottleti’s July signings will be available to play, and a home introduction will be unmissable. That game kicks off at 3 pm on Sunday, July 9, with drinks before and after at the Glebe Central Pub as per usual. Hope to see you there!

About Ben

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.

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