By Patrick Gibson
Photo Credits: Matt Zambonin / Freestyle Photography
Toothless, absolutely toothless. For the first 75 minutes of this game, you’d be excused for thinking that Atletico Ottawa weren’t embattled in a 5 team race for the CPL title. The team was lackadaisical and offered essentially nothing going forward against a team that they have traditionally been able to break down at least once and find a way to win. This performance was indicative of the team that started the season at home, losing 1-0 to York and 4-1 to Pacific, in that they weren’t coming out of the gates like a team that was playing in front of their home crowd. It was a tendency that I had thought had been shaken off, but I fear that it’s returned at the worst possible time. For the record, I also think this team has played 4 terrible games against Cavalry this season. That we’ve managed to take 6 points from 12 is truly shocking, given the overall performances that were on display in those fixtures. Even in our 2-0 win away on July 12th, until the 80th minute, it was a truly abysmal display. It’s scary that we’re in the stretch run, and this is the level that we’ve put forward because if it continues, there’s a genuine shot we'll miss the playoffs. On to the rankings:
#99 Ruben Del Campo
(6): Most of the season, I’ve been championing the input of individual players ahead of results. Looking at pure G/A is a naive way of approaching the sport when so many smaller, individual moments don’t end up resulting in a goal occur in every game. That said, there comes a point where the results do need to arrive. With Ruben Del Campo, I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt because it’s clear he’s motivated to try and perform. He gets frustrated, as anyone would when playing up top with a goalless streak that’s gone on this long, but he continues to put in an effort, at least from what I’m seeing. I’ll reiterate my point from last week that it seems fairly clear that any new striker is going to need to work themselves into the side, but by this point, 11 games in, Sam Salter had managed to find the back of the net at least once. He’s certainly been limited by the amount of time he’s been afforded on the pitch, but the return on investment has to come forward at a certain point. With Sam Salter suspended in the next game against Vancouver, perhaps that’s how he comes out of his funk.
#19 Malcolm Shaw
(5.8): You can only play with fire for so long before it’s gonna burn you. Those words, slightly paraphrased, from the legendary Jose Bautista bat flip home run for the Toronto Blue Jays, apply just as much to the Malcolm Shaw at left-back experiment. It would be one thing if Malcolm was naturally left-footed, but the idea of playing a right-footed striker at left-back just couldn’t be sustained long-term. His giveaway was what led to the first Cavalry goal in the first half, but even outside of that, he seemed disconnected from his role. He never felt like an option down the left wing, even when he did venture forward, as it necessitated him being able to cut back in on his preferred foot. In the second half, he didn’t provide the outlet he needed when he was shifted forward. That said, he did manage to avoid doing what he normally does when placed in those situations and only gave away one foul in his 90 minutes on the pitch. Hopefully, with Max Tissot finally being fit to return to the bench, Malcolm will only be seeing the pitch in his more natural forward positions.
#18 Samuel Salter
(5.9): A senseless yellow card will see Sam Salter suspended for next week’s game against Vancouver. Ultimately, it was indicative of his performance, as much of his work in this game was done in places where you wouldn’t want to see your striker regularly. On a number of occasions, I watched as Salter dropped to be almost level with Alberto Zapater, both with and without the ball. That the hottest part of his heatmap was in and around the centre circle further indicates that he wasn’t getting into the game the way we needed him to. His missed chance in the second half is one that I won’t begrudge too heavily, as the ball itself was coming through 6 different people. It would’ve been hard to hit it poorer than he did at the end of the day, but I’m not going to sit here and argue that it was a catastrophic miss when we’ve had far easier chances to end in the same fate this season. Ultimately, you know there’s a problem when your striker has only 11 touches in 68 minutes of work.
#7 Gianni dos Santos
(5.5): That the most fight we saw out of Gianni dos Santos was after the final whistle was blown is incredibly worrying. For the 45 minutes he was on the pitch, he looked like he was on an island, playing his own game and not really contributing to a collective attempt to attack. His primary instinct when coming down the wing is to try to cut in on his right foot, and yet at no point did I ever feel like there was any danger from a ball of his being played into the box or that he’d be able to curl one into the far corner of the goal. Hell, I never believed that he’d be able to win a corner most times. This doesn’t get into the complete disconnect between him and Luke Singh when trying to play long balls out of defence. With the heavy Cavalry press, Gianni needed to realize the best threat against Cavalry’s back line, particularly after Eryk Kobza picked up his yellow card, was for him to try and get in behind on those long balls and go at the young defender. Instead, he hung around at the halfway line on multiple occasions, expecting the ball to come to his feet. Gianni’s not shown himself in the best light since returning from injury, and I don’t know if he can get to where he needs to be.
#10 Ollie Bassett
(6): It’s kind of befuddling to me how the MVP talks for Ollie Bassett have started to resurface in larger discussions, if only because I’ve not really seen *that* Ollie Bassett in the last 2 months. While I did give him his plaudits over the last two games, in neither game did he really show the performances that made his previous season so impactful. What sets him apart at his best is his ability to be the conductor in midfield, yet more, and this season he’s shifted further and further to the right to try and get the ball. His willingness to play in the middle of the park has diminished week after week, and he functions much more as a right winger than he does as an actual number 10 in attack at this point. What happens is then the team turns into what I like to call the “Pokeball” formation, where everyone ends up on the periphery of the formation with one solitary player stuck in the middle, unable to facilitate anything as there’s no one to connect with in the centre of the pitch. That Ollie has 10 goals this season is the only thing keeping him in the conversation for MVP, I don’t think his overall play is worthy of that, even if there have been flashes of it this season.
#9 Carl Haworth
(6): It’s getting to be pretty clear that Carl’s on his last legs. Coming in for the second half in place of Jean-Aniel Assi, he didn’t have a great showing, especially compared to the rest of the performances he managed through the summer. That’s not to say he’s got nothing left, as the corner put in for Luke Singh’s goal was pristine, and he could win four free kicks in the 45 minutes he saw. Conversely, he went 4/9 on duels and only managed to hit 74% pass accuracy with 33% cross accuracy. That he can still go for 45 minutes is important, as if Assi is having one of his poorer games, he can come in and try to make a difference at the half. All told it feels like this is the last gasp for Carl. I’m sincerely hoping that he has a last gasp that can make a difference in the final few games when called upon.
#14 Jean-Aniel Assi
(5.8): The inconsistency of a young player on loan to this league should be expected, in all honesty. Unfortunately for Jean-Aniel Assi, he managed to string together one of his weakest performances in a fair few games in the most important game Atleti played this season. On a couple of breaks, he clearly made the wrong decision, or in one case, no decision at all. It’s frustrating because it clearly seemed like Assi had turned a corner. Can we account for the fact that of all the teams in the league, Cavalry would know how to play against him the best? Potentially, though, I don’t think that 100% addresses what we saw out there. Like much of the team, it was reverting to worse tendencies. Defensively, which had been a major area of improvement for him this season, he also had a very poor game, going 1 for 5 in-ground duels and being dribbled past twice without any other positive defensive statistical output. Given how heavily he’s been played this season, Assi should be expected to feature on the right for the rest of the season. His good games have become more common, but they need to be constant for the rest of the season, given how little room for error is left.
#11 Noah Verhoeven
(6.2): After being left on the bench for the Forge game last week, Noah Verhoeven returned to the team as a second-half substitute and, unfortunately, didn’t leave an impact on the game. While he was engaged more than he had been in previous appearances, with more passing attempts and duels, the actual outcomes were not special. Adding to that, he also only managed to win one of the four duels he contested. 1 Tackle and 1 foul given away offset one another for just another underwhelming performance, both statistically and from the eye test. It’s frustrating because I believe Noah brought something to this team at the start of the year. I’m just wondering where that version of him went and if we’ll ever get him back.
#21 Alberto Zapater
(6.5): More of the same from Alberto Zapater. It feels redundant to try and write a new paragraph for Alberto every week, because he ultimately doesn’t drop below the level that he needs to be at every single game. The one thing I will say here is that he might be playing too safe. It’s certainly not a complaint but more an aspiration that I want Alberto to try something to spark a pinch of creativity or inspiration in the middle of the park. He never makes the wrong decision, but at times that can limit his ability to go above and beyond and find something truly sensational to lift the team in a moment where they needed a lift. In fact, more than for just a moment, as the team looked void of inspiration until about the 75th. I don’t want to decry Alberto too much, as he still managed to go 50% on his duels and 84% pass accuracy with 4 of 6 successful long balls. It was an acceptable performance, but at the end of the day, we need just a little more from the absolute best player on the pitch.
#96 Ilias Iliadis
(5.6): There’s something to be said for a player being shifted around and asked to do a number of things in the same game. For that, I will forgive Iliadis a touch. However, I don’t believe he was effective in the least in either of the roles he was asked to play against Cavalry. Playing the first half as a double pivot with Zapater, Iliadis was all over the pitch, but not in the way you would want. He couldn’t connect with his wingers and facilitate moves forward, and his ambition to get forward was left slightly too far ahead in transitional defensive moments. On Cavalry’s first goal, I would’ve been fine with him taking a yellow to bail out the poor pass from Malcolm Shaw to prevent Cavalry from continuing their attack, but I also understand why he tried to play it out normally. In looking at the game as a whole, that Iliadis didn’t manage to win a single duel (and frankly, that he only contested three was a bit shocking as well) is probably the biggest mark against him. I think he’s functioned well in the double pivot the last two weeks and can continue to do so if given the opportunity. I think trying to have him fill in different positions is what’s causing him to not be able to develop the consistency we need from him.
#15 Maxim Tissot
(NR): After a long couple of months on the injury list, it was nice to see Max Tissot return to the pitch for the final minutes of Saturday’s game. Given that we may now actually have a left-back who’s capable of playing left-back, this will hopefully signal the ability to create anything down that left wing, something that’s been severely lacking in recent weeks.
#17 Miguel Acosta
(6.8): On a day when most weren’t at their best, Miguel was able to continue to show how high the floor really is for his level. Most of Cavalry’s most threatening moments either happened away from him or were thwarted entirely by him. I think back to late in the first half when a dangerous cross was played across goal, and Smith-Doyle was lurking at the back post; Acosta cut across to ensure the ball was cleared. Statistically, he was as effective as he seemed from the stands, winning 4 of 6 ground duels, 4 tackles and managing an additional clearance on top of the one mentioned above. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, as his crossing was poor on the day, not completing a single one of 6 attempts, and his long balls as well were below 50%. That said, in a team filled with uninspired performances, Miguel stood his ground at the level we can expect him to deliver.
#5 Luke Singh
(6.6): If that isn’t the goal of the year, something’s wrong with the CPL. If the absolute gall to try that, given the scenario, wasn’t enough, the technique to be able to wrap your foot around the ball at that angle is patently ridiculous. And from a defender, no less. The goal was probably the only thing from that game that actually deserved points from Atletico Ottawa’s side. Outside of the goal, it was a weaker performance from Luke, as the goal was basically canceled out by a senseless giveaway that turned into him having to pick up his 5th yellow card of the season. With that, he’ll officially be suspended for next Saturday’s game against Vancouver, a tie that, on the surface, may seem less vital than some others coming up, but every point is essential to ensure a run in the CPL playoffs. Outside of those two polarising instances, Luke was effective in the air, winning 3 of 4 aerial duels, managed a block and a couple of clearances, but also only ended up with 72% pass accuracy, something that’s wildly out of the ordinary for our centre backs this season.
#20 Karl Ouimette
(6.5): It was a pretty hot and cold Saturday night for Karl Ouimette at the centre of the Atletico Ottawa defence. With regards to Cavs’ first goal, I feel like he took the wrong angle in contesting Camargo’s run into the box. His position showed me he was caught in two minds, unsure whether to cut off a potential cutback from the Cavalry midfielder or take him on directly. That, or he just got a bad read on the angle. Regardless, he was the last line of defence in that particular sequence, and he couldn’t quite get it right. I will note that his presence on the ball was much better than we’ve seen at points this season. Playing in the middle of the back three is the biggest catalyst for this point, as Karl isn’t being asked to move forward more down the right side to support the right wing. Statistically speaking, his output was pretty average. 3 tackles, 60% on ground duels, and 50% on long balls combined with an unfortunate yellow late in the game and 0 aerial duel victories is a mixed bag that I think most teams would be okay with, given stronger defensive performances elsewhere.
#29 Nathan Ingham
(6): All 9 of Nathan Ingham’s inaccurate passes were long balls on Saturday. If that doesn’t sum up the state of Atletico Ottawa’s ability to break a press, I’m not quite sure what is. The ATO keeper didn’t have much to deal with against Cavalry. 3 shots on target with two really not being anywhere close to saveable is an unfortunate night for a keeper who has been in tremendous form recently. Though, that said, the save he did make was fairly tremendous, having to deal with a deflection and going full stretch to keep out an early Cavalry chance. There was talk in the pre-game hot-stove about Ingham deserving to win the Golden Glove this year, mostly based on his recent performances, and to be honest, I’m not quite there yet. Maybe this is me just being a negative Nancy here, but much of what I see from Nate doesn’t compare to what he did for us last season. He’s still a very good goalkeeper for this team and for this league. It’s just I can’t get over some of the little things that would make him the best of the best in this league.
I won’t say I’m surprised by the result. I had a feeling something like this was coming down the pipeline, but it’s probably for the best that it was against Cavalry. They had already established a lead on the group of four teams with 32 points going into this weekend, and now our goal can be to firmly establish ourselves in the playoffs with a chance at making the Champions League that way. In this writer's opinion, 7 points with 6 games remaining in this tight of a table is a bridge too far for a league title, and now we have to contend with Vancouver away. Given the importance of the midweek fixture against Pacific on the 13th, this feels like a classic trap game. It’s a classic reverse body clock game, whereby playing at 7 local, the Ottawa players will feel like they’re playing at 10 eastern. While this didn’t hurt them in their previous trip to Langley, who knows what’ll happen now, especially with two starters suspended.
Having joined CCSG in 2022, Patrick started his footie career playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros around the same time. While the first pro team he supported was Manchester United, as soon as Atlético Ottawa came to town, he was immediately on board. His wealth of footie knowledge has been a constant asset, along with his role as caretaker for Atléti Wikipedia pages.