By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Freestyle Photography / Valerie Wutti, Phil Larivière, Atlético Ottawa
The stakes are high as Atlético Ottawa plays Halifax Wanderers at TD Place Stadium on Saturday night. Both teams are languishing at the foot of the table and will be hungry for the three points. A win and some positive results elsewhere could see either club jump from the bottom of the league up into mid-table. Here are the main points from the pregame press conference with Carlos Gonzalez on Friday:
Firstly, the theme for the match is ‘90s night, and for this reason, the press conference began on a bit of a lighter note. Carlos Gonzalez reflected on his ‘90s memories: rock and roll, family, and growing up on the coast of Granada.
Getting into the business end of the press conference, Gonzalez was asked what he made of the high stakes given the position both teams occupy towards the bottom of the CPL table. Gonzalez said the team will have to push harder and control the finer details in order to win.
“Although we are competing not badly, and the team is not showing a really bad face, and we are getting near, it's not enough. So when things are not enough, you have to give more, and you have to give your best,” Gonzalez said.
This Saturday will mark the third time the Wanderers and Atlético have met this year as the league calendar rolls around to the time at which fixtures start to repeat. Atléti is yet to lose to Halifax so far this season, picking up a draw and a win in the Canadian Championship, respectively. Gonzalez was asked if it becomes easier to play a team a second (or, in this case, third) time, to which Gonzalez noted that it is difficult to get familiar with another team's game, and there will always be new changes to adapt to.
Attention was brought to the responsibility that team leaders like Carl Howarth and Ollie Bassett have shouldered in the wake of recent results and the importance that they have played not only on the field but in the dressing room. Gonzalez was full of praise for the players in question for recognizing the room to improve but also mentioned that the responsibility falls on the entire team.
“Everybody has a part of responsibility in the final performance of the team,” Gonzalez said. “So it's about 11 players that start, and it's about five substitutions that come on, and it's about 23 players that we have in the squad every single day training. So everybody has to give their best; everybody has to improve their teammates.”
Another Atléti player to be singled out was Miguel Acosta, who has been a positional anomaly throughout the season and has been asked to fill a defensive midfield hole that has been left open since the departure of Abdoul Sissoko at the end of last season. Gonzalez was full of praise for Acosta for playing in unfamiliar territory but indicated that there are plans to fill the gap in the midfield once the transfer window opens in July. He also indicated that he has plans to improve in areas where they can grow, with improvements made on the field and off of it.
Gonzalez added that Acosta was the exact type of player that fits the Atlético Ottawa mold: “Players that have the capacity to play in different positions, that they understand the games from different perspectives and players that always give everything in each and every single minute of the game. So these are the players that we are trying to reach,” he said.
Gonzalez also revealed that goalkeeper Nathan Ingham is making good progress after a long-term injury and has been training with the rest of the group. Gonzalez said he will “soon be ready to compete for a position with Sean Melvin.” suggesting his comeback is near at hand. A broken finger has sidelined Ingham since his last appearance in Atléti's match against York United on April 29th.
The presser started on a positive note, and it certainly ended on one. As Pride month begins, the CCSG Prideraiser campaign will be pledging a dollar amount per Atlético Ottawa goal scored in June for LGBT+ organizations. Coach Gonzalez was asked for a prediction on the number of goals and was happy to provide one.
“Well, we have four or five games in June. I hope we can score at least two each game. So be a couple of those. Yeah, let's see if we can reach ten goals.”
Hopefully, some of these goals will come against Halifax. Kickoff is Saturday, June 3rd, at 7 pm at TD Place Stadium. We hope to see you for pre-game drinks at the Glebe Central Pub!
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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 James Richardson and Charlie Eccleshare from The Football Cliches Podcast.