By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Phil Larivière
Samuel Salter loves to score against Vancouver FC! His second goal of the season was enough for Atlético Ottawa to see off Vancouver at TD Place Stadium. The home side made it less comfortable than it needed to be, once again failing to capitalize on some big chances. But as Carlos Gonzalez put it, the only goal right now is winning. Here are the highlights from the post-game presser with Salter and Gonzalez:
After a win in which Atlético Ottawa dominated proceedings and truthfully looked comfortable for most of the match, Gonzalez was happy to talk positively about the win, though he fell short of calling it Atléti’s best performance of the season.
“In certain moments we did quite a good first half, but in the second half we could do things better,” Gonzalez said.
He was likely referring to Ottawa’s inability to finish chances. Atlético Ottawa generated a staggering 17 shots and registered over two expected goals in the match.
“I think that the most important thing we are doing that is getting there," Gonzalez said. ”It's true that after that we have to be more forceful in those type of situations because if not, at the end of the day we are playing games that we don't close them, we leave them open and we leave the chance to the opponent to get into the game.”
Gonzalez said that a lot of the missed chances come down to a lack of confidence earlier in the season.
“I think that once we get into a more fluid dynamic in which the team feels that we are winning consistently, all these things will disappear,” he said.
Gonzalez specifically praised Carl Howarth, whose attack down the right-hand channels caused serious problems for Vancouver FC in the first half. Carlos said that experience made the difference over a very young Vancouver side, and having experienced players available provided confidence for the younger players in the Atléti squad.
It was Howarths first start after returning from injury, and Atléti was also bolstered by the return of Niba, Sacko, and Ingham from injuries. Sacko appeared off the bench while Ingham started in goal and was left relatively quiet all game. Gonzalez said having a full lineup was a “big boost.”
“I've seen the players training in a different way this week. Probably was because they felt that the competitiveness between them was higher because we had every player available. So I think that this is so important to create internal competition in our team and this is the only way to make everyone get better and improve their level,” Gonzalez said.
Whatever went on in training, Atletico seemed to have the wind in their sails and came out flying in the first half of the match. Gonzalez had said how important the first goal was in the reverse fixture in Langley, and he said Salter scoring early in this match was “vital” to the team's confidence.
Gonzalez mentioned that the forward had been working hard, knowing that his moment would come in the absence of Shaw.
“I'm very happy because I felt that the visible things are that we win with his goal. But the not visible things are the hard work that he put today into the field and the work offensive, being as a target and giving air to the team and the work defensively, selecting good moments to go to the pressure, being aggressive enough. I think that he did a quite complete game.”
Sam Salter himself took the podium next and said he was very pleased to be on the scoresheet and to have a big hand in the win. Salter shared how the team had been working hard in preparation for the match, and the chemistry was very good as a result, though he thought they could have scored a few more goals.
It hasn’t been long since TD Place Stadium felt like a cursed place to play for Atlético Ottawa, but Salter said the atmosphere during the match was fantastic.
“The crowd helps us in every match. We hear them, they are always with us during the 90 minutes. That’s always what playing at home is for,” he said.
After the match, Salter could be seen with his parents, and he talked briefly about their influence on him.
“They did everything for me to succeed, always supported me,” Salter said. He referred to his goal as a “nice fathers day gift.”
Salter will likely be involved again next weekend as Shaw’s Gold Cup journey continues. Salter admitted that he had been putting pressure on himself early in the season and had to take time to adjust to the new team and players.
“I think I've been adapting well thus far and happy that it shows that my performance is my performance today. And it takes time. It's different for every player, but, yeah, I'm happy that it's going well right now, and it will have to keep going,” he said.
For those fans of Atlético Ottawa who found the final moments of the match too nervy to watch, there will be eight days to recover before Atleti takes the pitch again. Atletico Ottawa travels to Tim Hortons Field for a rematch against Forge FC, which bested Ottawa 1-0 in the reverse fixture. Kickoff will be next Sunday at 6 pm, and we will see you at the Glebe Central Pub to catch the action.
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.