By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography
While it may not have been the victory that Atlético fans were hungry for, ATO’s 1-1 draw to Pacific FC on Wednesday night was certainly a step in the right direction. Throughout the match, the Ottawa club looked the more likely to snatch all three points, especially in the second half, which had nineteen-year-old Pacific keeper Emil Gazdov standing on his head to keep the ball out of the Pacific goal. ATO will rue the five big chances missed, which may have cost them the three points, including a rare missed penalty kick by PK ace Ollie Bassett and a last-minute foray through on goal from Malcolm Shaw. Still, overall, a much improved second half from the 90 minutes at the weekend was enough to bring an improved atmosphere to the post-game presser. Here are all the details with Maxim Tissot and Carlos Gonzalez:
The Quotes: Maxim Tissot
On Ollie Bassetts PK: Ollie's pretty much money on the PK spot, so you always expect him to score. It didn't go our way, but I think it was around the 55th minute, so we knew we still had time. Ollie reset well and kept going, but yeah, every day of the week I'll take Ollie to take PKs. He's been fantastic. I think this is the first one that he's missed since he's been here.
On the tepid first 30 minutes: “I think we were a bit flat-footed in the first half. I don't think we came out well. I think our press was a bit rusty. (Pacific) had a lot of time on the ball… And I feel in the second half, we kind of corrected. Ollie, Malcolm, and Sam stepped a bit higher, and we as a unit followed them with that press, and that created chances.”
On his freekick technique: “I've kind of changed my tune a bit on freekicks where I don't hit it as hard as I tried to before. I just try to place it in the corner, and because it's from close, there's a good chance that it'll go in. So just try to hit it over the wall and place it as tightly in the corner as I can.”
On Nate Ingham's spectacular save: “When I saw Sellouf hit that one, I was like, ‘Oh, this is looking nice.’ And I turned around, I saw Nate touch it, and it hit the crossbar, and I just screamed his name. What a great save. And he's been huge for us, not only on the field, but off the field. He's a great leader, great person as well. So all the credit to him and, to me, he's the best goalie in the CPL.”
On team leaders stepping up: “Miguel, myself, Nate, and Carl have dealt with injuries this year, so we've missed some time. So, yeah, it's probably one of the few times that we've been all together on the field or at least part of the game. It's huge. We need the leadership to step it up and to bring everyone with us.”
The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez
On the languid first 30 minutes: “I think that what was a little bit worse in the first half was the offensive phase. We weren't capable to maintain the ball. We recover the ball, and we lose very early. So this made us drop and drop and defend more than what we wanted. I think the key was that… in the first half, we weren't capable to find the spaces to give continuity to the next pass and many mistakes that, at the end of the day, if you lose easy balls, then you drop back into the defense again.”
On ATO’s response to Pacific's goal: “I'm disappointed because I feel that the team reacted after the goal. We shouldn't leave them to control the game, play 25-30 minutes, and then when we receive the goal, it's like we start to react and to try to play the game that we wanted from the beginning. So for me, it's a bit disappointed, that part, but it's true that we also have to give credit to the response of the players of the team in the second half. I think in the second half,, we did a really good game in which we deserve much more”
On the playoff race: “Our slow start created this scenario. We knew that the points that we lost at the beginning of the season were going to be points that now, at the end of the season, we will regret. So nothing new. We know that now we have four finals. We have a very important game against Halifax in which they are also in a similar situation than us with also problems in the under-21 minutes. So let's go game-by-game.”
On Tissot's goal: “A spectacular goal. I really like not only the execution, I think that they decided really smartly, Ollie, him, and Zapa, that they’re getting into a space that the goalkeeper maybe couldn't see the ball. I think that they did it really well. They were smart in that moment, and everything was great; the way they dealt with the action and the execution, of course.”
On team strength: “Well, we don't have (any new) injuries. That's the most important thing. Everybody is healthy. Let's see if we can bring back players that are injured, like Abou or Espejo that are nearly there… Tomorrow, we will do a good recovery session in which the players return to an optimal state, and we will see which players are in the better physicality for the game. And we have only one month, so we have to push with what we have.”
ATO still trails the elusive three points that have eluded it in four straight matches, but one could be forgiven for letting out a tiny sigh of relief after a rebound performance against a playoff calibre team. One feels that if Atléti can now start to pick up a little momentum, it could still end the season in a comfortable place, both mentally and in the standings. On the weekend, CarGo talked positively about the merits of a quick turnaround, and in this case, having a match in three days could be vital to continuing this momentum. ATO travels now to visit Halifax away at Wanderers Ground, where the Wanderers will be looking to gain ground on their league table upstairs neighbors. As it stands, both clubs are separated by only a single goal, and, as a result, it should make for a cracking game. As Carlos always says, “Every game is a final.” Forza Atléti!
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.