By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Phil Larivière
After a lull in Halifax, Atlético Ottawa returned to TD Place Stadium (Or should we say fortress?) and preserved its outstanding home streak. It was a high-pressing ATO that grabbed an early Sam Salter goal, with defending thereafter resolute enough to secure the win against Cavalry FC by a goal to nil. Both Coach Carlos Gonzalez and defender MacDonald Niba will be proud of a fourth consecutive clean sheet at home and another three points gained, and they joined the post-game presser to chat about it:
The Quotes - Niba Macdonald
On playing at left-back:
“I don't mind, anyway the coach puts me to help the team. I will give my 100% wherever he puts me to play. My first game I played to start at the left back was against Forge, and I did a good game. So the coach trusts me, I believe in him, and he believes in me.”
On defending against Ali Musse:
“Today, when we are attacking on the right side, I always have to stay on Musse. I always have to be careful because in case we lose the ball in the middle, Musse can get the ball and transition. So I was always wary.”
On a fourth clean sheet at home:
“We love defending. This is our team. We love defending from the front, and everyone is committed, and it's very good when we can come up with a clean sheet.”
On his injury troubles:
“Injuries are part of the sport, so you have to live with that. It's not been easy for me, especially from the last year I was injured, but now I'm getting my feet back. I'm healthy now so I just want to enjoy myself on the field to give 100% whenever I am on the pitch to help the team.”
On celebrating his goal-line clearance:
“We said before the game we have to celebrate each defensive action. That way it gets us the confidence and the morale to keep going defensively. And I was very happy when I had to do that goal-line clearance. It was like a goal for me.”
The Quotes - Carlos Gonzalez:
On the high forward press to start the game:
“We tried to show a different face, a different image from the start. I think that we did a brilliant 31 minutes in which we press high, in which we impose our style of what we wanted to do in the field today.”
On the changing tactics throughout the game:
“We had to try to surprise the opponents because at the end of the day, if we don't do that, we are going to be quite a flat team because everybody knows everybody at the moment. So all the cards are on the table. So we tried to tweak things with the pressure of the three [attackers] in certain moments, in other moments with only one striker showing a different system.
On the recent improvement in defending set pieces:
“It's true that we've tweaked some things. We've worked on it since the last month. And I think that we're going in the right direction because I feel that the team is very solid now defending these type of situations.”
On the immediate introduction of Friday's signing Ilias Iliadis:
“I’m happy for him, for his debut. He was here, like, 48 hours ago. He trained with us. We thought that because of certain injuries that the team had, it was a good moment to add him to the 18-man roster, and the game went into a path that I felt that we need him, so we use him. And I'm happy for him.
ATO will close out their short home stand next weekend against York, who (at the time of writing) now sit level on points with Atléti with a game in hand. Looking ahead to that match, Carlos Gonzalez admitted that it will be a “tough” battle, with York already stealing six points away from Atléti this season. That said, if ATO can defend like they did on Saturday night and perhaps even be boosted by some returns off the injury list, the points will be there for the taking.
Next Saturday is also a special match: Los Fiesta Night, in which special attention and recognition is given to Mexican and Spanish culture and Atlético Ottawa’s connection to it. Kickoff is at 7 pm, so don’t be afraid to join the CCSG for una bebida at the Glebe Central Pub before the game as we prepare to cheer on Los Rojiblancos once again. See you there!
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.