By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Phil Larivière
It’s hard to separate the rush of emotions which came out of TD Place after kickoff on late Sunday afternoon. Atlético Ottawa is on a torrid run of form, and even the over 7,000 fans in attendance couldn’t stem the flow of last-minute goals which ATO is conceding consistently. It’s now points dropped in six straight matches for the Roujiblancos, with four out of the last five being stoppage-time winners for their opponents. For it to happen on Mr. Ottawa’s home sendoff makes the result even more painful, though Carl Haworth was happy enough to put the result aside to reflect on an incredible career. Both Haworth and Carlos Gonzalez joined the postmatch press conference, and here are all the details:
The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez
On the match overall: “Well, it's like a deja vu...I think first half was quite equal, but I think in second half we were better than them. We created chances; we weren't ruthless enough in those moments that you have to score and you need to win the game. And another bad action: of a detail; of a disconnection; of bad luck – What can I say – in which you lose the game because of that.”
On why ATO have conceded last-minute losses in 4 in 5 games: “The bigger factor probably is that the necessity of going to win games and the mental demand of that throughout a very long season. It's a long season of a lot of mental demands in which you lost a lot of points in the beginning. This makes you that from more than half of the season, you are chasing the season… you are trying to win every single game because it's not enough to tie, and this creates you mental fatigue.”
On taking positives from the match: “Mainly in the second half, I think that we had a period of maybe the last 15, 20 minutes of the game before the extra time in which we were pushing, in which we were creating more chances. And probably those were the moments in which the other team was back and organized, and we were more dominant, and we were creating more maybe.”
On facing York next: “They have the same need – the need of winning and how they deal also with that stress. We are not dealing with that stress. Well, that's a reality, and now York is having the same type of stress. So it's going to be a game in which the emotions, as the last few games, are going to be the key aspect of the game. How we deal with the emotions, how we control the details, how we are a little bit better on that last pass, last action that I think that we are missing a little bit over there, mainly today. So yeah, I think that we are going to play a final in between two teams that probably are in a similar stage.”
The Quotes: Carl Haworth
On the difficulties of playing at home: “Yeah, when you're at home, it's a little bit different. I think your mentality has to be, ‘We have to go for it.’ We have to not just try and get the three points, but ultimately, we need to entertain and put on a good performance for the fans and the people who pay money to come and see us. So that's certainly the mentality home versus away. That being said, you’ve got to get points on the board, so there's no excuses for not finishing the game off strong. And really what it comes down to is lack of concentration in key moments…It could be fatigue over a very long season. We've got to obviously learn from these moments and try and put it right and go into York next weekend like our playoffs have started.”
On the emotions of the match: “Result aside, it was, I think, a happy day for me. A good send-off, if you will, if we're not able to kind of take care of business and get another home game. To see so many familiar faces in the crowd was something special. People who I've seen ten years ago and kind of grown with them, grown with football here in the city. It's been emotional. Nice to see to have my family here in town as well. To share that moment with them was pretty incredible as well.”
On humble beginnings: “When I was coming in 2013 to play PDL, I knew they were getting the pro team the next year, and I knew if I had a decent season that maybe I'd get a look or maybe get a tryout or something. But I never thought it would go the way that it did. I wouldn't change anything. I've enjoyed my time here. I met my wife here, had my baby here. Ottawa is certainly home, and it's got a big piece of my heart.”
On the massive support: “I wonder how much the $5 beers have to do with that! No, it's been great to grow with the whole organization. There's people who are in that W section who were out at Algonquin College back in 2013 and before that, when there was only a couple of hundred fans moving to Carleton. When we started the NSL season when our stadium wasn't ready, they were there again in full voice, and they've been here throughout. So, got to tip our hats to them because they put in so much time and effort into building a brand and getting people to join in as well. Those casual fans who come to the odd game here and there, they get pulled in by these people who just have so much energy, and they give so much to us on the field as well.”
On taking a moment to let it soak in: “I think when I was coming off when they called my number, and I was walking off trying to go as slow as I could to kind of soak it in. But, yeah, that's kind of when it really hit home. That could be the last time walking off. But, yeah, I could see my family from where I was. Big group of friends in attendance as well. So it was nice again to get to share that moment with the people that I love and care about.”
On career highlights: “My first professional game was a big one for me, and then scoring the first professional Ottawa goal here at TD Place was a big one. Representing my country against South Korea was a big one. And then making it to two finals with Ottawa franchises coming up on the losing end: both of those still special moments, and we were able to share those with – I think there were 15,000 fans here in attendance for that final last year. So we're not done. We still got a chance this year, and once things start clicking again, hopefully, we can get to another one.”
Atlético Ottawa still sits fifth in the playoff race but misses out on gaining vital ground in the fight for final playoff positions. This is particularly important as ATO travels to York United this coming weekend. While not statistically a must-win match, it's the closest physical embodiment to an ‘every match is a final’ Atlético Ottawa has faced this season. A loss to York would put the Toronto club in the driving seat going into the final game of the season, with a win putting ATO clear of sixth. Notably, it’s also a battle between the two worst-form outfits in the league, with the Nine Stripes facing struggles of its own - with losses in its last three matches, including falling at the hands of Valour.
Kickoff for the next match is Sunday, October 1, at 1 p.m., and it appears some may be trying to make a trip down to York. But whatever capacity you’re planning on watching from, just make sure you don’t miss it. This will be one of the big ones.
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.