By Patrick Gibson
Photo Credits: David Chant/York United
You take the good, you take the bad, and there you have the facts of life. Unfortunately for Atletico Ottawa, the good has been absent for the last month. 0-2-5 in their last seven sees them sitting outside a playoff spot for the first time since Alberto Zapater joined the club; frankly, I'm not surprised. The effort in the second half was not up to the standard of a team that wants to be playing football after next week. There's a handful of players to whom this doesn't apply, but as a collective, it's not even close to enough. Maybe this is me being a tad salty after having made the trip down to York Lions' Stadium, but it needs to be said. On to the rankings:
#18 Samuel Salter
(5.5): It would be unfair to Romelu Lukaku to compare his poor first touches to Sam Salter's in this game. Since the midpoint of the season, I have commended Sam's holdup play, even in games where he wasn't providing much in the final third. That was not the case today, as he was unable to provide any sort of outlet for the midfield and could not string passes together successfully. The amount he lost the ball truly limited the ability of ATO to have sustained possession and arching presence against York. And that's just the first half. The second half saw little of anything from him as a forward option bar a header back into the mixer from a corner. You can't have a striker play like that and expect to win anything, let alone a game as important as this.
#99 Ruben Del Campo
(NR): That the only thing I can comment on about Del Campo's appearance in this game was that he made a decision to allow the ball to go past him and into Ollie's path for a half chance, speaks volumes. You wouldn't be remiss to assume that he didn't actually come onto the pitch for the 10 or so minutes that he recorded. He's not set up for the way we want to play, and he's clearly not good enough to be able to generate much outside of it. Here's hoping he finds his shooting boots in the off-season because saying this half-year has been underwhelming would be one of the biggest understatements of all time.
#9 Carl Haworth
(6.3): I've talked about how Carl needs to be played out on the right wing to still be effective. That he was substituted like for like for Zach Verhoven was setting him up to not be able to play at his best. Much of the second half was a blur, but there was no instance where Carl was a focal point of any play and did very little to generate in the final third. It's been an unceremonious end for Mr. Ottawa, and I can't help but feel bad for that fact.
#30 Gabriel Antinoro
(6.7): From the minute Gabi stepped onto the pitch, he provided the one thing that, too many times this season, the rest of the team has not had: energy. Unfortunately for Gabi, that energy was not used to its full potential. Too many times, players would not make the snap decision to get the ball to Gabi's feet down the left wing in plenty of space to take on the York back line. It also didn't help that, for seemingly no reason, the referee seemed to take a dislike to him. It was a classic example of power tripping from the official when Gabi was shoved by Noah Abatneh, and rather than respond, the youngster walked away rather maturely. The referee insisted on talking to the youngster for an infringement that never happened. To see him dejected on the sideline after the game broke my heart. This kid is what you want the heart and soul of a team to be, and I hope next season has him featured far more than they have this year; he's one of few that deserve it.
#16 Zach Verhoven
(5.6): This rating would be blasphemous through the first half. Especially in the first twenty-five minutes, he looked energetic and had the best chance of the game for ATO, which was saved by Gianntsopolous' outstretched leg. After that, though, he was totally absent. Nothing about his final 30 minutes suggested he was a threat to York defenders. Adding to that, his positioning in the game left the side open to overloads down our left flank. We were very fortunate that York was unable, or unwilling, to take advantage. Unfortunately, it's been months since Zach has been a real contributor to any ATO performance, whether that's when he's starting or coming in late. If Zach is going to play such an important role for this team, he has to be better.
#7 Gianni dos Santos
(NR): Coming on in injury time, dos Santos' foray into the game was haphazard and probably a bit too late to make any real difference. Much like Verhoven, it's been months since he's provided anything to the Atletico Ottawa attack, and I figure he would not have featured in the 18 had Malcolm Shaw been fit.
#14 Jean-Aniel Assi
(6.7): Forced with much of the offensive impetus once more, Assi's performance in this game was one that had a fair few positives to take. He drove at defenders more often than not, and while a couple of missed passes were overhit, the ideas behind them were the type of thing that you want to see from a young player. I've consistently talked about process over results, and with a young player, it's exactly what you want to see. I'll continue to rant about his inability to find players on crosses, but as long as he's getting into those positions in the first place, I'll ultimately still be positive about what he does.
#10 Ollie Bassett
(6.2): For the first time in a while, Ollie featured in the middle of the park and looked like he could produce something as the engine of this team. As it turns out, he let his frustration get the better of him and could not provide the necessary creativity from someone you expect to be the most important player. The body language he displays on the pitch and the unwillingness to go 100% into any 50/50 challenge are detrimental to the overall mood of the team and is emblematic of the issues that have manifested on the pitch and likely in the dressing room as well. It's frustrating when, statistically, a player is providing something consistently but is counteracting that with the intangible elements. But then again, if those intangibles were present, would he have been here in the first place?
#96 Ilias Iliadis
(6.8): Despite a couple of baffling decisions with some back heels, Iliadis was exactly what we needed in the middle of the park today. That he didn't contribute to a goal was quite unlucky, particularly with the thunderous boot from outside the box in the first half. His creativity and energy in the midfield is the perfect counterweight to the stability that Zapater provides, and his mistakes can be snuffed out by a calming presence behind him. This also came through in his defensive output, particularly with one sliding challenge at midfield late in the first half. That we didn't generate a chance from that is, unfortunately, to be expected given our attacking woes, but knowing that ability exists in our midfield is as reassuring as possible given the rest of the circumstances. His being taken off was unfortunate, but because Antinoro came on, we didn't lose the vitality from that left-sided central midfielder. It's unfortunate that he won't be back next season, as this feels far more like a conditioning stint to get back to form for MLS next season.
#21 Alberto Zapater
(6.7): Calm, cool, collected, and back at the base of a midfield three, Alberto Zapater was in his element today. Safety first was the name of his game, and he served as a vital outlet to the defence against a fairly significant bit of pressure from York's front line in the first half. That stability ended up producing a day with 94% pass accuracy, though there's not much else in the way of offensive production. Still, only losing the ball 3 times in comparison to the rest of the team is astounding. Defensively, 3 tackles and 3 clearances sums up a tremendously active performance, particularly in the second half, as York gained more and more positive play in our final third. More and more, I'm dreading the task of replacing such a player in our team if he is unable to play. We saw how big the gap was when Abdou Sissoko left; how much bigger will it be is the question.
#15 Maxim Tissot
(6.5): It was another Maxim Tissot-type performance from the man this weekend. Nothing about it went wrong, but nothing about his performance gave me any significant memory. The service to him down the left side of the pitch was minimal, and while he's normally able to get involved in the play going forward, the runs he made were not even creating half-chances for players around him. That said, he did do a good job managing Clement Bahiya and Austin Ricci, bar the one time Ricci got in on goal and forced York to attack down the other wing. It would be wrong of me to say anything negative about Tissot's performance, but it also wasn't the tremendous positive we needed from somewhere on the pitch.
#5 Luke Singh
(6.5): In the air, Luke Singh managed to do a real job for Atletico Ottawa in this game. His presence at the back was matched only by his partner, Diego Espejo, and he even managed to work in progressive passing and runs that felt threatening. That said, there were plenty of opportunities to do more with the ball at his feet. Sure, he made a fool out of a couple of York players by taking time on the ball and drawing them in, but that time could've been better used with the ball being played quickly out to an option elsewhere on the pitch. On multiple occasions, Luke had Gabi Antinoro running down the left wing in space and was unable to find a pass to him. These decisive moments make or break a team's ability to find goals from nowhere. That's what Atletico Ottawa had to do in the second half because it felt like they had nothing to give York's front line. Luke's performance wasn't bad by any stretch, but I'm still left wanting more from the young lad.
#4 Diego Espejo
(6.7): Some will lay blame at the feet of our young, returning defender for the goal that was conceded. I myself will look to the previous 87 minutes where he was able to cut out a number of different plays, whether aerially or on the ground and prevent York from piling on the chances in the first half. His passing could've been much better, as 71% accuracy is likely his worst of the season, and he probably didn't need to pick up a senseless yellow card. Still, Diego's defensive elements are vastly different from those that filled his role. To me, the defence did look more organized than it had in a while. Is that partly due to the transition back to a back 4? Almost certainly. But does that change happen without Diego coming back into the fold? I'm not 100% sure.
#17 Miguel Acosta
(6.8): From a statistical perspective, Miguel Acosta's afternoon was a pretty superb one. 66% on his ground duels, 4 tackles, 5 clearances, and another 2 interceptions are the high levels of defensive activity that make him an elite fullback in this league. Was he beaten down the wing once or twice, yes, but the recovery and pressure put on by those recoveries were essential to York not really generating chances from them. Even going forward, Miguel had a couple of exhilarating dribbles that should've done something to spark the attack but ultimately failed to create the slightest of chances. It sucks to waste an effort like this from your right back, who has contributed so heavily for this side despite not being in his best stretch of form. It'll be interesting to see where he goes from here and if next week will be his 85th and final game for the club.
#29 Nathan Ingham
(7.4): He did everything he could to keep us in this game. The save on Austin Ricci was something truly special after the York winger was sent in all alone on goal. That type of save generally galvanized teams to take it to the opposition. To reward the goalkeeper who had laid themselves out for the badge. If anyone deserves better from those who went out there Sunday afternoon, it's our keeper. Nathan stands out as someone who has been putting the work in to try and get us out of the funk the last 7 games have been and has been left with no reward. Nate has saved us time and time again, and it's about time the favour is returned.
As great as it would be to maybe sneak into the playoffs in the last moment of the season, for the long-term health of the club, I don't think we can. There is a clear divide in the locker room. I couldn't tell you how it's been divided, but this isn't a team right now. Nathan Ingham's words should echo loudly in every supporter and player's ear over the next 6 days as we prepare for our final game of the season. It's against the team that we've had the least amount of historical success and were coming into it on our worst run of form in over two years. Thanksgiving in all of our households will likely not be a day of celebration if we've learned anything about this team. We can hope we're wrong all we want, but the truth is staring us dead in the face. This is the team we've been all season; we haven't been unlucky. We just haven't been good enough. But what do I know? I'm just some jackass who took a 10-hour round trip to watch this football match. Clearly, I'm not that smart, right?
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.