By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Trevor MacMillan/HFX Wanderers FC
It’s life-or-death double-jeopardy as Atlético Ottawa travel to Hamilton against old foes Forge FC. The Hammers sit pretty in the playoffs and could play spoiler as ATO tries and claw their way into the final postseason spot. All efforts will be moot should York United triumph over Vancouver FC tonight. Either way, Carlos Gonzalez promised that his squad is prepared with one objective for the weekend: “winning three points in Hamilton” regardless of Friday's result. Here are all the details from the final pre-game presser of the regular season:
The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez
On clinicality in do-or-die games: “I think that we have to be ruthless. We have to think that the chances that we are having. Maybe they don't come back. And we have to take advantage of those moments because, as you said, if you take the games into the end, well, their feelings are not being good enough in the last minutes of the games. So we have to try to start with the front foot to create chances to score as soon as possible so that mentally the team approaches the game.”
On taking lessons from the past month: “I think it's very important that everybody learns and everybody assumes what we've done wrong because it's the first step to change it. If you forget things that you've done wrong and you haven't had the same result, maybe you repeat the same mistakes. So, I think a starting point is acknowledging what is going wrong, acknowledging what can we improve, and knowing where we are failing. I think this is the first step. Now, from that, be positive. From that, try to take the team into the appropriate mentality in which we feel the freshness and the freedom to play with no fear, to play with nothing to lose, and to make a great game.”
Responding to Ingham's statements last week: “I think that the comments were emotional, the comments were clear… I agree with nearly all of them, and we spoke about that with all the team in the locker room. We put our thoughts all together so that we start a new week with everybody on the same page with great commitment and knowing that it could be the last week for this group… At the end of the day, nobody wants that the teammates fail; nobody wants that the team fails. And I think that we are all together… I think in these moments in which things are difficult, it's not easy to show what we are showing. And I'm proud of the level of commitment and capacity that the players are showing.”
Although Forge will not be watching the league table, they still have motivations to clinch second in the league and all the perks that come with it. So it will be up to ATO to prove that they are the team that wants it more on the day if they wish to see postseason action.
Gonzalez reported that his team will be at nearly full strength, losing only Malcolm Shaw this week as he nurses a heel injury. Looking over to the opposition bench, Forge will be without David Choinière, who hasn’t played since midseason, but more notable is the potential loss of Coach Bobby Smyriniotis, who awaits the verdict on his appeal of a one-match suspension issued last week. Another source of hope, albeit marginally trivial, is the fact that Forge hasn’t yet won back-to-back matches at home this season.
Outside of playoff importance, the matter of the Golden Boot still needs to be resolved, and there will be three players with serious aspirations in this match: Bassett (11), Campbell (10), and Pacius (10). This will be another storyline to keep an eye on Saturday night when the ball gets rolling at 5 p.m. York-Vancouver will kick off at 10:30 pm tonight.
We hope to see you – perhaps one last time this year – at the Glebe Central Pub tomorrow afternoon.
Forza Atleti! Forza Vancouver!
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 Adam Hurrey, James Richardson, and Charlie Eccleshare from The Football Cliches Podcast.