Final Score: Atlético Ottawa 1-0 Cavalry FC
Goalscorers: Wright 81′ (PK)
Game of the 2022 season: 2
CPL match: 252
Match in a minute or less
Atlético Ottawa began their season with a victory at TD Place on Saturday, beating Cavalry FC 1-0 on a penalty from Brian Wright.
The home side nearly took the lead early on, with Keven Aleman firing a shot at the Cavalry net, but Julian Roloff punched it aside. It fell to Ballou Tabla, whose follow up effort hit the crossbar and went out for a goal kick. Cavalry had a number of shots as well throughout the match, including several of them right at the start of the second half, but were unable to get many of them on target.
With the clock ticking toward the final whistle, Ottawa were given a penalty after shot was blocked by the arm of Cavalry’s Jose Escalante. Brian Wright stepped up to take it and smashed it home, earning his side all three points.
Ottawa pick up first win of the season, show improved intensity
Playing with more intensity and not taking their foot off the gas pedal has been something that Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos Gonzalez has stressed heading into his first season with the club, and it showed on Saturday against Cavalry. Ottawa played an aggressive, pressing style of football when defending. A season ago they might have sat back more and invited pressure, but Gonzalez has them drilled to play on the front foot and force their opponents to try and beat them.
The midfield duo of Ollie Bassett and Ben McKendry in particular were all over the pitch, dropping back to defend before springing forward into a counter-attack. There were a few occasions where Ottawa would win the ball in front of their own box and be at the other end of the pitch within a matter of seconds thanks to some long passes and anticipation from the players chasing those passes.
“I think that the intensity of the game was good in the first half, in the second half I felt that we dropped a little bit, but the reality is that we have been working on it for five weeks,” said Gonzalez after the match. “We have to be calm, we have to have a little bit of patience, because this is not about pressing a button and having all that you want. We have to keep on working, and it’s better to work on building the team through a win.”
While Gonzalez admitted that it wasn’t perfect, being resilient and finding a way to win the match is a huge boost for an Ottawa side that was often on the other end of such circumstances a year ago. Winning in the first game of the season can only be a positive thing, and getting the first tally into the win column is an important step in what they hope will be a successful campaign.
“Every game is important, we talk about not just playing games but we try and say that every game we’re playing is a final,” said the goalscorer Wright after the match. “It’s an important first win of the season, [we have] a new team, a new coach, and obviously we’re having a regular season this year, which is nice. It’s important to get that first win, especially at home, we’re trying to keep our home a fortress so we don’t drop points at home.”
Cavalry create chances, but were unable to take advantage of them
Despite taking 17 shots, 13 of them from inside the penalty area, Cavalry were unable to find the back of the net on Saturday afternoon.
After a relatively quiet first half, in which a lot of the match was played in the middle of the park, Cavalry came out firing after the interval. While only four of those 17 shots were on target, Joe Mason and Ali Musse in particular looked dangerous, combining for nine of them and getting themselves into dangerous areas. Mason pulled a few wide of the post and each had one on target that forced the Ottawa backline to intervene, led by goalkeeper Nathan Ingham with four saves.
As Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said on OneSoccer after the match, Cavalry certainly weren’t poor enough to deserve to lose, but without taking advantage of their chances, they didn’t necessarily deserve to win either.
“It’s a frustrating one, we’ve had all the preparation for the last nine weeks, and I thought this week we were unbelievable in gearing up to this,” said Cavalry midfielder Charlie Trafford, who started and played all 90 minutes in his CPL debut. after the match. “Obviously there’s a little bit of nerves, a little bit of excitement, so the first half was a bit more chaotic than we wanted, but in the second half we started to show our quality. We’ll start to control games and dominate teams, but we can’t be naïve on the other side, we need to be ruthless in both boxes.
“They were going to sit and hope for a counter, hope for a mistake, and they get it so they stuck to their gameplan. Beyond frustrating, we created a lot, started to grow into that game, and I thought we deserved something but that’s football and it doesn’t matter what you deserve.”
Both teams employ wingbacks to varying levels of success
Both Tommy Wheeldon Jr and Carlos Gonzalez used wingbacks in their teams in this match, but it was Cavalry who generally had more success with them.
Wheeldon Jr’s side started Daan Klomp, Karifa Yao and David Norman Jr. at centre-back, and deployed Fraser Aird on the right flank and Ben Fisk on the left. In the middle of the park Charlie Trafford and Victor Loturi combined well with the players behind them and outside of them to create chances down the wings, with Aird in particular attempting 13 crosses.
Cavalry’s wide players were effective, and despite only filling in for the injured Tom Field, Fisk didn’t look out of place at all in the wingback role, as opposed to his usual role a bit higher up the pitch according to his manager.
“I thought they did smashing,” the Cavalry boss said after the match of Aird and Fisk. “Fraser Aird gives us that natural width and good service, and Ben Fisk is a terrific pro… I thought Ben Fisk was good today, he ran his socks off, put some balls in the box, got a lot of second balls, and tried to progress us up the pitch.
“I’m not in doom and gloom mode, there’s a lot of good things that we can take away and build from, and we’ve got to get used to travelling on the road. If we perform like that next week at Forge, I think we’ll get something from there.”
Ottawa used a hybrid formation that was a back four in defence and a back three in attack. Drew Beckie started at right back, and often cut inside more to his more natural centre-back role, alongside Diego Espejo and Macdonald Niba into a back three when the team was attacking. Maxim Tissot started at left back, but would push forward into a left wingback role in attack, pushing left winger Keven Aleman more centrally, while right winger Ballou Tabla playing wingback on the right side.
While this was effective in getting a lot defensively out of the centre-backs, Ottawa often played through Ollie Basset and Ben McKendry in the middle of the pitch as a result, and Tissot and Tabla were uninvolved the in attack for long periods of the game.
Tabla lasted just under an hour in his CPL debut, and while he looked sharp when he did have the ball at his feet, there were times when he was isolated on the wing. He often received the ball closer to his own half than he will have liked, not really allowing him to use his full skillset and run at defenders closer to the goal. There is more to come from Tabla, but first Ottawa need to find a way to get him more involved in the match, and in areas of the pitch that allow him to thrive.
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Brian Wright, Atlético Ottawa
Wright was involved throughout the match, and it was his penalty goal that earned Ottawa all three points.
Atlético Ottawa remain at home, taking on HFX Wanderers at TD Place on Saturday, April 16 (1 p.m. ET/ 2 p.m. AT). Cavalry next play in Ontario as well, heading west to take on Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field that same afternoon (4 p.m. ET/ 2 p.m. MT).
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