By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Atlético Ottawa via Instagram
“We have good news. Everybody's available.”
That was Carlos Gonzalez's message before Sunday's meeting with Valour FC. In a week that saw the retirement announcement of Ottawa soccer hero Carl Howarth and Fernando Lopez announcing “the largest attendance of the season” on Sunday, the motivations for Atleti to emerge victorious at TD Place continue to grow. A glance across to Atléti’s Manitoban opposition reveals the opposite. Valour FC are now officially eliminated from playoff contention after suffering a crushing defeat at home at the hands of Vancouver FC last week, and ATO will hope there are no signs of life left. Here are all the details from CarGo’s presser ahead of ATO’s final regular season match at TD Place:
The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez
On Valour: “Well, I think this is going to be a tricky match. I don't think that we should focus too much on them. We are not in that position at the moment. We cannot think on what are we going to expect on them… We know that they are in a difficult situation, but also we come from a tough month, so we have to try to bounce back as soon as possible, and there is not going to be a better scenario that here at the TD place with our supporters behind us.”
On Carl Howarth's retirement announcement: “Carl is a legend in the football of the city. I think that he has been so important for the team, although he hasn't had so many minutes this season because of that injury. But I think that he has always helped the team from other positions. He's a player that his technical capacities and the way he plays, everybody sees them. But I think that the most important thing is how he is as a leader as a person. I think that he's a powerful player inside of the locker room and that he transmits with a lot of leadership. So I think that we have to fight also to give the best ending to that marvelous career that he had. And, of course, it's going to be a very special game, not only for him, for all of us because he's a very important player in the club.”
On playing each team four times: “To surprise another opponent, you need to be versatile. You need to be open-minded. You need to have players that can play in different positions and understand the game deeply in different ways. So I think that although (playing teams repeatedly) is a tough issue for all the coaches, I think that it's an opportunity for all of us to continue evolving, to continue working on different ways to (beat) opponents, to surprise them, and to not stay still… If you play so many times against the same team and you stay still, and you play in the same way, probably you won't have good results.”
On his confidence in the team to get results under mounting pressure: “Yesterday I saw the faces in the locker room, I saw the faces in the training session, and everybody is motivated. Of course, we wanted to be in another position, but now we still have things in our hands. We have a great opportunity to bounce it back at home. We still have three games that I'm sure if we have positive results on those three games, we are going to be in a good position to play back in the playoffs here in the TD place. So I think that we have many things in which we can hold on and think that things can change so easily. Still, we are in the race for the playoffs, and we are still in the race of playing for a title and to grab a spot in CONCACAF.”
Gonzalez covered a lot of ground in the pre-match presser, but the majority of the talking will have to be done on the pitch Sunday afternoon. Carlos commended the supporters who will be flocking to occupy both the North and South sides of TD Place Stadium, saying he was not only unsurprised but also very proud of the support the team has received throughout their skid. He said he hopes to “give a victory to all the city.”
A reminder that drinks will be held before the game at the Glebe Central Pub, with the walk to the game falling at 1 pm on Sunday, September 24. Lots of cool things are happening at the match, so make sure to get there early. 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 Adam Hurrey, James Richardson, and Charlie Eccleshare from The Football Cliches Podcast.