By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Phil Larivière
With another big CPL game on the horizon, Carlos Gonzalez joined the pre-game presser ahead of a very winnable game for Atlético Ottawa against the floundering Forge FC. Here are all the important details ahead of Sunday's match:
Atlético will be injury free going into this weekend. However, there will be one new absence when Sunday evening gets rolling. Luke Singh is a late call-up to the Trinidad and Tobago side competing in the Gold Cup this weekend, and Gonzalez said he was taken by surprise by the loss of Singh, who has played in every regular season game thus far.
“It has been an absence that I didn't expect…So I'm still working on how I'm going to adjust it,” Gonzalez said. “If it's going to be player by player, if it's going to be a tactical adjustment, we will see what works better. We still have a training session tomorrow to see how everything works and we will take the decision in the last minute.”
Singh meets up with international teammate Malcolm Shaw for the Gold Cup campaign, and Gonzalez shared how pleased he is to have players from his team competing on the international stage.
“It's very important for all the team, especially for those players that go to the national teams is important, but also for the club having players that can go outside and represent their national team and can grab those experiences that they're going to have in the Gold Cup,” Gonzalez said. He added that he hopes these players will “come back with these experiences” and “better the team.”
Back in Canada, Atlético will meet Forge for the third time this season, with Forge emerging as victors by the slimmest of margins on both occasions. Gonzalez said his team has learned a lot since then.
“Our idea is to maintain things that we were doing well that were many and to control a little bit better the details. Because I think that if we are able to do that, we will grab some points or have a good win,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez explained that it is a “tricky moment” psychologically for Forge, who are struggling for points and are coming off a loss in the midweek away from home. If Forge has let its foot off the gas in recent weeks, Los Rojiblancos is putting the pedal to the metal, especially following two massive home wins in its last three games.
A recent characteristic of the Atlético style of play has been an influx of shot attempts, something that Gonzalez said is in part due to work done in training but also a factor in the team's evolution.
“I feel that during the season, we are having…more control and maybe defending more with the ball in certain moments of the game. This is giving us the chance to create more and giving us the chance to be near in scoring situations. But at the end of the day, the important thing is be more clinical in those actions,” Gonzalez said.
He shared that the players have been working on improving clinically in training, including adjusting the timings of runs, putting more players in the box, and improving decision-making.
“We can work on many things that we are doing so that the team improves in the last meters, and so we are able to kill the game off sooner,” Gonzalez said.
Most Atlético players have exhibited a marked upturn in form since the beginning of the season - particularly those playing in the heart of midfield. Gonzalez spoke about the strength of his midfielders and how he has balanced established starters with developing players like youngster Zakaria Bahous.
“All the young players are having ups and downs, and he's working hard. In certain moments, he's having good performances with the team. And in other moments, as a coach, as a staff, we feel that there are other players that are better prepared for that game, or we are taking decisions because of the opponents,” Gonzalez said.
Just as he mentioned in the post-match analysis last week, Gonzalez emphasized how competitive the levels have been in training, particularly in the midfield position.
“It's great to see them compete every single day in the training session so that they can grab the starting spot. But as I always say, the players who start for me are not the most important because at the end of the day, you usually win games at the end of the game.”
With Gonzalez having a full squad at his disposal to fill the holes left by Shaw and Singh, it will be interesting to see what he does with his starting lineup. Kickoff will be at 6 pm on Sunday, June 25, at Tim Hortons Field (and as a bonus, you can watch Singh and Shaw on international duty at 3:30 on the same day). We hope to see you at the Glebe Central Pub for the Atlético Ottawa live watch-along on Sunday night!
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.