By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography
The regular season may now be fading into the rearview mirror for Atlético Ottawa and its supporters, but for the Writer's Shed, ATO content will never take a backseat. The 2023 CPL season left us with plenty of loose ends yet to be tied. Enter end-of-season media day - one last opportunity for players and coaches to shed light on these unanswered questions. Over the coming weeks, we’ll share insights from a range of players on a variety of topics, and up first is the man at the helm himself, Carlos Gonzalez. His post-season wrap-up interview is a must-read, packed with candidness and a hearty serving of reflection. Stay tuned as well for his special message to the supporters. Without further adieu, the Carlos Gonzalez wrap-up:
The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez
On feelings looking back: “It has been a tough season…I think that the end of it came and happened because of things that also came before…We created high expectations last season, and yeah, we haven't been able to maintain them. I think that it's a moment in which also we have to analyze not only the tree; we have to give a step back and maybe think a little bit about… the forest, and in a few weeks, we will have a clearer vision of everything that happened.”
On self-reflection and finding ways to improve for the future: “I'm not going to do it only now. I've been doing it since the beginning. I think that every single period of the season has been periods in which we've made mistakes. We have to assume that, and in which we've also tried to analyze them, not stopping too much because everything was going forward and alive. But it's true that now we get into a period that is a reflexive period, that is a period in which, as I say, we have to give a step back. We have to try to have cold minds to look for the exact reasons because I don't think it has been only one reason and think, ‘What is the future of the club?’“
On trying to slow negative momentum: “It has been a long situation, and we've tried to approach it in many different ways…I think that what we saw in the last game in Hamilton can give us maybe the answer of what happened. I think that emotionally, the team lived tough moments from probably the Cavalry game here at home in which we were fighting for everything. And that moment was what makes us wibble a little bit. And from there, yeah, it started the bad dynamic of the team and dynamic in which certain situations were repetitive. And I've seen big patterns on plenty of games in the last month. So we can analyze only that period. But I think that we have to have a bigger picture because that period for me appears because of circumstances that happened before and also probably when we were in the good strike, the month of July, August also we were doing things badly, but maybe the results were covering those things.”
On issues during the season: “Well, I think that mainly we were more fragile defensively. This is an evidence, I think, throughout the season if we start to do comparisons and to analyze last season…I felt that last season, the team understood better moments of games and competed better in certain moments in which were key. Maybe in this season, we haven't had that type of handling those situations. And I think that the team has been a little bit fragile in defense as a whole. I have to think more about it, but my feelings are that the difference between being out of a playoff spot and being there in a third position, maybe a fourth position, hasn't been a big difference. I think that the margins haven't been as big as maybe we could think about. I think it has been details. But at the end of the day in a professional level, details count so much, so that's one of the points that we have to learn about.”
On over-reliance on absorbing pressure and counter-attacking: “I don’t agree completely on that view because I felt that last season the team didn’t have the ball in many, many moments. I felt that the team this season, in many moments of the season, was better on the ball and was better in attack situations in organized situations. But at the end of the day, the result is the important part. When you don't score, you don't score more goals than the opponent. And when you are more fragile in defense, usually you start to see the bad things.”
On cracks appearing during the positive months: “Well, I think there were warning signs, but they were hidden by results. Maybe that was one of the main mistakes. And I assume that part of responsibility, of being more clear with the players and with the institution, that although things were going in the right way, there were warning signs. I think being pessimistic in certain moments is not bad because it makes you be prepared for things, and maybe sometimes you can anticipate those things. And my feelings were that the team has worked so hard… But this has been a season in which, well, the expectations drag you to a different status that you have to maintain. And we started the season not in the optimal conditions. This created that maybe we were starting to chase the objectives that we put on the table at the beginning. Then we had to put so many big amounts of work to get back into those positions that we were trying to reach. And in…the last round of the season? Well, psychologically, we were in a moment that we still felt the beginning of the season. So in those moments when they punch us, maybe we didn't react in the way that we should… it's true that it hasn't been a very normal situation. A team that was going high, high and then in the last period drops so much.”
On favourite moments of the season: “I have plenty, and probably one of my best moment has been this week, seeing the connection that I still had with the players in a tough moment. Usually, when seasons go badly… you start to see separation between coach, staff, players. You start to see that everything start to get a little bit away. And I felt the support of the players until the end. I felt the backup of the staff; I felt the energy of everyone. And I think that, for me, this is the more valuable moment of the season.”
Final message: “I want to say something. Supporters – I feel sorry for them. I feel sad for them. I think that last season, we gave them expectations that, well, we haven't been able to maintain. And I think that there has been a tough season for supporters. They've given us so much, and I only can tell them that. Rest now, be patient, and assuring that the club will return to the position that earns. Okay? So this is my words.”
With reporters packing their bags, ready to leave Atlético Ottawa media day with their thoughts already turning towards playoffs, Gonzalez brought the attention of the group upon himself one last time with the above statement. It was a relief, given how Gonzalez had remained so non-committal on his future at the club and shied away from opportunities to discuss next steps, to hear that he hadn’t moved on entirely from those who devoted their time, money, and efforts to this club. For those interested in exactly what Gonzalez’s thoughts were on his expiring ATO contract, stay dialed into The Forward Press - Extra Time, as we will be sharing the latest on contract talk and other common themes from the end-of-season presser!
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.