By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Phil Larivière, York United/David Chant
Another last-minute loss, this time at the hands of York United, sees ATO fall out of the final playoff spot with a game to go, and it's nothing less than the Ottawa club has deserved. York now sits in full control of their playoff fate, and should the Torontonians pick up a good result on the last day of the season, it will mean an abrupt end to ATO’s campaign. That said, all hope is not lost, but Atlético now faces the daunting challenge of shaking a feeling that Nathan Ingham called “sickening” and “rock bottom” in the post-game presser. His reactions and the reactions of Carlos Gonzalez are below:
The Quotes: Nathan Ingham
On bouncing back: “‘Grow up.’ It's the first thing I said to the locker room when I got in there when everyone's got their heads hanging. I feel like we've been feeling sorry for ourselves for a month. We have no time for it. I told them to pray to whoever you believe in that we get Vancouver to do us a favor, and we prepare this week like that's what's going to happen, and we show up, and we take care of business. I don't think at this point we deserve another opportunity, but if we're given it, I hope to God the locker room wakes up and we get it done because it feels like a lot of guys are in the wrong profession right now if we can't turn things around.”
On ATO knowing its fate by Friday evening: “Yeah, I think that needs to be fixed. I think that's a big problem. It's extremely unfair. We're at an advantage, obviously, but it's extremely unfair to other teams in the league, and it's not how it should work logistically. I'm sure there's a reason for it. Figure it out.’
On ATO potentially crumbling under pressure: It's possible. Not really my job to figure that out. My job is to keep the ball out of the net. My job is to motivate and organize the group in front of me, which, obviously, I've been failing at. So I got to figure that out myself again. We were a battle-tested team last year… We're watching guys learn it firsthand right now. And these lessons, if anyone's gone through hardships in their life or in their career, lessons take a minute. They take time; they take reflection. Can't do it on the fly. And we're witnessing what happens when you don't have an experienced locker room. That being said, we have a talented group, and we're trying to figure out how to get it right.”
On reasons for last-second losses: “There's reasons for all that, but there's no excuses. The game doesn't care about you. The game's not fair. You don't deserve anything. Just because you did something last year doesn't mean you get to do it this year… I'm working really hard for this club, as hard as I can, to keep the ball out of the net. And I want the players that are going to live and die on the field and live and die by the badge to be here with us next year. And I hope it's a playoff run this year; I really do. And if it's not, we remind them that just like no one cares that we won the league last year, no one cares that we finished fifth or sixth this year. Game doesn't care. Fans don't care. We just got to show up in preseason and be ready. But again, we have a week right now. It's going to be the best week of training of the year, I promise you that. And we're going to be ready to go at Forge.”
The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez
On recovering for next Saturday: “Well, first of all, we have to bounce back again and to recover those minds in the locker room and recover the team. And after that, build day by day. After that, watch the game of [Friday], and after that, we will have the solution. I think that the game of [Friday] will give us the solution of our motivation of the options that we have or not.”
On differences between last season and this season: “Well ruthless in certain moments, lack of managing also certain moments. Small details. But I think that there have been very thin margins. If you see the results of last season and you see the results of this season, you can see that they are two completely different teams, and they are far away from each other. But being honest, I think that this team has been quite near to being in good positions throughout all the season because we face every single team, and we've lost many games because of small details, not because we were worse than the opponent.”
On worrying about a future contract being on the line: “If I start to think about next season, I will be very selfish. I think that we have very important things in our hands. I think that still we have one week at least to work on and that we have small options, but we still have options. I don't waste one second of my time in thinking on next season…I don't take that decision [to renew the contract]. We will see what happens in a couple of weeks or in a month…Come to Hamilton and ask me that again.”
It appears Nate Ingham predicted right all those weeks ago when he said the league is always settled on the final day, or in this case, the final days. ATO's schedule for the following week means they will have around 16 hours between the York result in Vancouver on Friday night and taking to Tim Hortons Field on Saturday in an effort to avoid ending their season at the hands of Forge for a second consecutive season. An interesting complication to consider is that given Abatneh and Martin-Pereux only contributed a combined 90 U21 minutes for York against Atlético, the Nine Stripes will still need to make up a little under 130 minutes worth of their required u21 minutes in their final match. This could potentially spell difficulty for Martin Nash against a tricky Vancouver FC side on their day. But whatever Friday's results dictate, make sure you bring your A-game to cheer on the red and white stripes of ATO from wherever you’re viewing from. It may or may not be the final time this season. Ingham issued one more call to the fans in the presser, saying:
“I want to give so much more back to [the fans]. I want them to know the group is working tirelessly. We're in every day. We're working hard, we're focused, and it's not going our way. And the only way to solve problems in this game, in this world, is to outwork them. That's what we're doing right now.”
See you next weekend, ATO fans.
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.