By Patrick Gibson
Photo Credits: Trevor MacMillan / Halifax Wanderers FC
Shameful. To have lost our 3rd match in 4 as a result of an injury-time winner signals a mentality that is incongruent with any form of success. Last year, we were a team that wasn’t shy at all in the big moments. This year, we run from them like we’re tweens at a dance, trying to desperately avoid interacting with anyone we might have a crush on. Combine that fact with an instance to allow Ollie Bassett to play on the wing and run two midfielders against a midfield three that features the best holding midfielder in the league, and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s unbelievably frustrating that this team has absolutely capsized after such a good summer. How poorly Miguel Acosta has played since returning from injury is almost unthinkable. I wish I could say it was just a nightmare, but unfortunately, reality has a tendency to be cruel. On to the rankings:
#99 Ruben Del Campo
(6): It’s getting to be really frustrating to watch Ruben Del Campo be ineffective as the head of the spear when he does come on to the pitch. He’s not generated much of anything going forward and you can only hang your hat on the assist he delivered in that York game for so long. He has been unable to link up with the rest of the team for any sort of intricate move when he isn’t being substituted in the dying minutes of a game. He’s not to the level of Moragrega or Uche, but he’s not far off. Effort can only get you so far. Results are necessary.
#19 Malcolm Shaw
(6.3): I get why Malcolm Shaw came on as early as he did. Gabriel Antinoro doing something rash to pick up a second yellow, while unlikely, was a possibility. I’m not sure Malcolm did too much tonight to deserve any ire, but I’m not sure he did much to inspire praise either. Given he had been playing on the left side for most of the season, his spot on the right of the front three made him look disconnected from what normally goes on down that wing. One goal from him this season really isn’t enough, and it’s hard to justify continuing to keep a striker on the roster that doesn’t score goals, even if it looks like we’ll have two next year.
#18 Samuel Salter
(7): Putting home both of Atletico Ottawa’s goals in this game, despite severe mitigating circumstances, will spare him from the ire with which I’m presently writing this. I think his first half was pretty effective, being able to work well with Ollie Bassett and Maxim Tissot in spaces along the left side and working back to manage some of the wild balls that careened everywhere in the midfield off of a rain-soaked pitch in Halifax. I thought he probably should’ve been substituted when Carlos Gonzalez made his first changes, as the pressing intensity he displayed in the first half had waned pretty heavily by the 60th. That he now has as many goals as Brian Wright did last season is kind of insane to think about, given how he started this year.
#10 Ollie Bassett
(6.1): Maybe playing a central midfielder as a winger isn’t the piece of genius we thought it was. I wasn’t totally put off by the first half Ollie put in this evening, but in looking back on it, I think he benefitted pretty heavily from the chaos that was occurring behind him, and when Halifax settled down in the second half, he was essentially invisible. The further downside of playing him out on the left was the diminished presence in the midfield that having a third man would usually provide, particularly against someone like Lorenzo Callegari, who had a tremendous effect on the second half. I will continue to argue that the best version of Atletico Ottawa is when Ollie is able to find channels in the middle of the pitch and not insist on driving down the wings. It appears others see differently.
#14 Jean-Aniel Assi
(5.8): There’s a reason Jean-Aniel Assi is here and not at CF Montreal proper. He can’t make a decision. The shot he took in the 32nd minute against Yann Fillion was the mark of a player who is unconfident in his own ability. Rather than take a touch and then take a shot, he stood over the ball and did a couple of shimmies before hitting the ball straight at the Halifax keeper. It’s something I’ve harped on for months about his game sense, and there are flashes where that element of his game is present, but it’s far too infrequent for even a player as young as he is. That he wasn’t as effective in other parts of the game is even worse than normal, as he’s shown flashes of being capable defensively this season. The one moment that stands out was the Halifax chance in the 43rd minute, where he allowed the Halifax attacker to come across him and get a free header into the middle of the 6-yard box when he should’ve run on and headed it with no problem.
#16 Zach Verhoven
(NR): I had been down on Zach Verhoven recently as his performances had not lived up to the reputation that he had developed as a true super sub. Tonight, I don’t think he really sank to the lows that he’s done at various points this season. Much like Malcolm Shaw, I don’t think he really rose to the challenge, either. Given his reputation, I do believe that he can still find a place to make a difference late in games. I just don’t know if the position he’s being played in will allow him to do that.
#30 Gabriel Antinoro
(6.7): After a few weeks of not seeing the pitch at all, I was refreshed to see Antinoro get a good run out in this game. Despite being substituted shortly after picking up a yellow card, his energy is a change of pace from a lot of the other players that are used in similar roles. I think back to one moment in the first half when a cross was cleared from the Halifax box, and Gabi chased down Callum Watson, who was carrying the ball away and managed to recover and regain possession for ATO in the attacking third. While the other elements of the game still need the consistency to be a true week-to-week player, I’m more bullish on his prospect than Assi. He has the attitude that a young player needs to be truly decisive and intense in most if not all, moments.
#21 Alberto Zapater
(6.2): I want to put the blame on Alberto Zapater’s worst game of the season on the pitch, because the bounces that were happening were truly diabolical at times, but I don’t think that can be the only explanation for what happened out there. He only had 76% pass accuracy, only a 50% win rate on his duels, and was dribbled past twice. I think this was partly exacerbated by having to deal with what was essentially a 3 on 2 matchup the entire evening against the Halifax midfield, which left plenty of space for players to run into between the midfield and defensive lines. He’s the most important defensive piece for this team, and it’s not a shock that we conceded 3 on his worst evening in our colours.
#96 Ilias Iliadis
(6.4) I won’t take back the positive things I said about Iliadis last week cause I really don’t think he’s the problem. I figured he would thrive in this sort of game, given that the ball was bouncing all over the place and much of the first half featured passes that were going every which way. He inserted himself well going forward and had a half chance in the second half that he took too much time with and never got a shot off when he really should have. That said, 64% pass accuracy is something a midfielder should never be close to approaching, let alone on 42 passes in a system where ball control is limited. His defensive work should continue to be praised, as it’s clear he’s picked up a couple of things from his midfield partner, but if he can just put one or two things together, he’ll be the full package in these last three games.
#15 Maxim Tissot
(6.6): On the one hand, I can’t really point out one singular moment where Tissot made any sort of calamitous error that led to our defeat. On the other, there has to be something to the idea that the team is 3-3-7 with him appearing in a game and 7-3-4 without. This feels like a classic "causation does not equal correlation" situation, as Zapater’s entry into the league coincided with Tissot’s injury that kept him out for most of the summer. His statistics read like the wildly inconsistent player we all purport him to be. 65% pass accuracy but also 7/8 on ground duels. 4 tackles were made, but no other defensive stats were registered. Part of me wants to believe that giving Tissot the run out is the right idea, given how few left-sided players we currently employ and how mishmash that has been all season, but the record is so glaring with him in the line-up, and that since his return the team has looked like it has. I’m absolutely lost.
#17 Miguel Acosta
(5): I think Miguel Acosta’s evil twin has replaced him. I said that the Vancouver game was probably an aberration, and apparently, it just wasn’t. You can put blame at Miguel’s feet for all three of Halifax’s goals on Monday night. For the first, he reacts very slowly to changing over responsibility with Jean Aniel-Assi as Ferrin cuts in, and Perruzza cuts across, giving Massimo just enough time to be able to get the shot away. On the second, despite some really poor defending from Luke Singh by not following Perruzza as he cut towards goal, Acosta’s clearance went straight down the middle of the pitch to a Halifax defender rather than playing safely down the right wing. On the third, a wild sliding challenge on Fernandez was extremely lacking and gave him the left side of the 18 all to himself. Dribbled past 3 times and only winning 1 of 7 ground duels is tragic defensive work from someone I’ve called the best one on one defender in the league.
#5 Luke Singh
(5.9): After an admirable performance against Pacific, Luke was serviceable against Halifax until he wasn’t. I mentioned my issue with his play on the second goal, as he should notice when Perruzza makes the run that he needs to go with him and not hope for Nate Ingham to make the high claim behind him. The ball from Callegari was a good one, but Luke needs to do better in those situations to prevent that from even becoming a chance, let alone a goal. His also getting dribbled past 3 times is arguably even worse than it would be for Miguel Acosta, as Luke being a centre-back means he’s the last line of defence with no one to fill his spot. In the air, he was fine, winning 4 of 5 aerial duels, which saved him from a truly scathing segment here, but we need more from him in the big moments.
#23 Tyr Walker
(6.5): Tyr serves as the player in defence with whom I have nothing really bad to say nor anything really positive to say. He was the definition of “fine”, with the only real highlight of his evening was bothering Jordan Perruzza’s chance inside the 6-yard box late in the first half. To be able to essentially complete our u21 minutes requirement on Monday is an added bonus, even if the defence left a lot to be desired on the whole. Tyr is protected in the middle of the back three, having only had to contest two duels the whole game, and that’s probably for the best for a young player like him. My only question is, why haven’t we seen him at home yet? Every minute he’s played this season has been on the road, and that doesn’t feel like a coincidence.
#29 Nathan Ingham
(6.2): He did concede three goals, but I think Ingham was hung out to dry by the rest of the XI rather than being responsible for any of them. The second was the closest he was going to get to any of the three, but to put the bulk of the blame on him when he got a finger to it would be ignoring much larger problems around him. I’ll put this sentence here just to ensure everyone knows that his distribution still had problems, though less so than normal, as he didn’t take as many kicks.
I’ve done a fairly good job of trying to avoid being out and out critical of the manager for most of the season, but Carlos Gonzalez has been trying too much these last few weeks. Little experiments here and there have turned into a Katamari Damacy-like snowball, and the team is completely out of sync. Injuries and suspension have certainly had an impact on the ability to maintain a consistent XI, but there are little intricacies that also change every week. Trying out Ollie on the left is an example of probably thinking too much. It’s an issue of trying to have players be good enough across the pitch rather than putting your best players in their best roles. It’s still weird to say a team that has scored more this season is underperforming offensively, but the lack of a defined game plan, week to week, is frustrating. If the defence plays like they did against Halifax, there really aren’t many win conditions for this lineup.
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.