By Ben Ralph
Photo Credits: Pacific FC, Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography
No quote can better illustrate the stature of ATO’s 1-0 win at Pacific than the roar of “Vamos!” which emanated from the fist-pumping Carlos Gonzalez at the full-time whistle. The Spaniard and his team will be ecstatic to spend the week in fourth place – level with Halifax and two points clear of sixth place, York United. Ollie Bassett found himself on the scoresheet against his former club for the third time this season. Still, it was the debut of 19-year-old central defender Tyr Walker which dominated the post-game presser as he led the club in final third entries, touches, passes, duels, duels won, tackles, tackles won, AND clearances through the first half. Walker and Gonzalez joined the presser after the game, and here are all the juicy details:
The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez
On adapting to change during the game: “We had a couple of handicaps throughout the game. The injury of Niba. The injury – not injury, I hope – of Tyr. And this makes the scenario of the game change. So you have to adapt, you have to compete and you have to take the three points, and that's what we did.”
On Tyr Walker’s first start for ATO: “Tyr is a humble guy that knows where he is, and he is a strong worker and I think that his capabilities that he have naturally and the work that he puts every single day in the training sessions make him have this opportunity so he has to keep going, and this is only the start.”
On the team's commitment to defending: “There are games and moments in games in which one of the most important things that you can do is roll up your sleeves and work and be unbreakable and be solid. I think that if you are not that type of team, you are going to be a mediocre team, and if you want to be a team that fights for everything, you have to be a team that bends in certain moments but doesn't break.”
On shifting positions to control the game: “We tried to maintain the control with the ball because I felt that during the first half, we had plenty of good minutes with the ball in which we were consistent in possession. So this was the idea: putting Ilias in the left back or in the left wing-back in which he has played there in Montreal in the last months, and maintaining a good midfielder with capacities on the ball to maintain the control of the game.”
On trusting the match to Roy and Walker: “These type of performances of the young guys… are normal. I think that they were prepared for this moment. The young guys usually they start a process from the beginning of the season, and now at halfway through the season, they start to be prepared to give high quality minutes. So happy for that.”
The Quotes: Tyr Walker
On the U-sports CPL experience: “It's amazing… I was just happy to perform the way I did for the 60 minutes. I'm frustrated I couldn't get the whole game through. But I'm happy that I was able to show people that there is a pathway here.”
On preparing for a first competitive start: “Obviously, high-quality it's different playing in a competitive match, but I feel like I was prepared. Ready. The coaches, staff, everyone gave me the confidence to play as well as the players.”
On playing more often: “Well, that's not up to me, but I'm happy to contribute whenever called upon and I'm just happy that we could win today.”
Rising from his seat to exit the press conference, Walker also joked to Gonzalez, saying, “I need to practice. How do you answer your questions?” While his performance in the press conference may not have wowed his coach, the onfield performance certainly did the talking, with Gonzalez seeming to indicate there will be more opportunities for Walker and Zach Roy, who also played over 30 minutes. With another injury to Niba and an influx of defender injuries in recent weeks, Walker and Roy could certainly become familiar faces in future Atlético lineups.
Ottawa will roll on to Winnipeg this week for a Friday night matchup with Valour. At the risk of getting too excited, a victory could push Atléti into second place for at least 24 hours. Until then, take a few days to catch your breath. With nine games left in the season and almost every team still in contention for top spots, this playoff race feels like it is only heating up.
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.