By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Phil Larivière
Well, this is it—the big one.
A win puts Atlético Ottawa in the playoffs. A loss – or even a draw – and it’s advantage to York, with the Toronto club going to Vancouver FC on the final day. There is still plenty of light at the end of the tunnel for Atléti, but it will be up to ATO to find its way out of the hole it dug itself into over the past month. Carlos Gonzalez had some details on the decision to switch to 3 at the back ahead of the weekend and aired his thoughts in the pre-game presser. Here are all the details:
The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez
On how to find a form: “Well, there are a couple of strategies. First of all, we cannot focus too much on the past. It's true that we have to acknowledge why things are happening, but we cannot lose much time on the past… But still, as I say, we are focusing in the process. We are focusing in the day-by-day, in how the team is working… At the beginning of the season, we set some goals that was fighting until the end to be in a position that could make us reach a title. So we're still there, and we have to be positive.”
On finding positives: “I think we've lost in a cruel way many times this month. Sorry. And yeah, the reality is that if you go and analyze detail-by-detail every single game in not one of them, we've been out of the situation in which we could win. So I think that it's changing a little bit the perspective. If we only focus on the final result, of course, we cannot be happy about that. But if we focus on the way the team has played and the chances that we've created and the several situations that have made that we haven't grabbed the result, I think that we can be a little bit more positive.”
On sticking with the three at the back formation: “I am going to be very honest and clear like I try to be always. We tweaked the defensive structure because we felt that against teams that played with the line of three, we were not in good positions to match them, to press them. And that's why we did the modification of the team in this structure. Defensively, I think it worked against Valour over there. It worked against Forge because they play with a line of three. It worked against Cavalry, although we lose in the last moment. But yeah, I think that the team needs to have different tools with the same principles because we try always to have the same principles and adapt structures so that we are in position to play with our identity against each team.”
On the fan impact away from home: “Every time you see them on the road, that they're spending money, spending time, driving in, going to other places to cheer up the team and to support the team, I think this is an extra. This is a multiplier. So, yeah, we feel more responsibility because we owe them so much, and we want to do a really good game for them, especially for them, because they have been suffering as us this season with up and downs. And what we will try to do is to play for the club, to play for the fans, to play for the city, and to do a great match so that they can feel that they are supporters of Atlético Ottawa.”
More positive news from Gonzalez is the fact that Diego Espejo seems due to start after a month away from the action. Gonzalez said that Espejo has only now been training with the team for a few weeks. Given he has missed nearly 6 weeks of games, Gonzalez said he was hesitant to throw the Spaniard back into the squad immediately and instead opted to give him time to adjust, sitting him on the bench against Valour FC. Espejo's last match, you may remember, was a 3-3 draw at home to York in which Espejo grabbed the game-tying goal. Despite this slower reintegration, Gonzalez said that Espejo has improved in training over these past few weeks, suggesting a return may be close.
York United is in a rut of its own after losing the last three games on the bounce and still sitting a touch over 200 minutes away from hitting the u21 minutes requirement. One could expect a few inexperienced faces in the York United lineup come kick off at 1 pm on Sunday afternoon. While York United has struggled to introduce less experienced faces into their ranks over the season, the CCSG is always welcoming new members. While we likely won’t have any more home games this season, there is always an opportunity to gather at the Glebe Central Pub on Sunday afternoon to cheer on the Roujiblancos with friends old and new. Hope to 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.