MATCH ANALYSIS: Milestone moment for table-topping Atlético Ottawa in first win against Forge at TD Place

Final Score: Atlético Ottawa 3-0 Forge FC
Goalscorers: Aparicio 13′, Zapater 72′, del Campo 82′
Game of the 2024 season: 25
CPL match: 509

Match in a minute or less

Atlético Ottawa kept their undefeated streak to begin the 2024 Canadian Premier League season alive with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Forge FC on Saturday at TD Place Stadium.

It was the first time they had defeated, or scored against, the Hamilton club in the nation’s capital representing an important early-season milestone as they chase a second Canadian Premier League Shield in club history.

Atleti opened the scoring after just 13 minutes on a thunderous strike from Manny Aparicio. They then built on that lead in the second half, first through Alberto Zapater, and then a goal in a fifth straight game for Rubén del Campo.

The capital club consolidated their place at the top of the CPL table and are quickly proving that the off-season hype around their recruitment was warranted.

Three Observations

Ruthless Atlético Ottawa remain undefeated to start 2024 

Since their first season in 2020, Forge FC has always been Atlético Ottawa’s kryptonite. They had defeated the capital club in 11 of 16 previous meetings, and had never lost in Ottawa before Saturday’s match — including a 2-0 win in the 2022 CPL Final.

So to finally get that victory early in the 2024 season, and to do so by such an emphatic scoreline, is a significant moment for this Atleti side.

“It’s a milestone for the club,” said Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos González. “I knew that because now we’ve been here for a while, and knew that we had to break also this barrier. I think that the club deserved this, and the fans deserve this, a big win against Forge at home.”

The hosts showed a number of impressive aspects to their game on Saturday, but crucial in attack was the diverse ways they managed to find the back of the net against Forge. Manny Aparicio scored a screamer from distance, Alberto Zapater scored on a header from a set piece, and a lovely bit of interplay resulted in Rubén del Campo breaking in behind for Atleti’s third.

“It’s good to see that we’re scoring different ways, where you know, shots outside the box, set pieces, connections, it’s where we’re finding ways to score, and it’s beautiful to see,” said Atlético Ottawa midfielder Manny Aparicio. “And then defensively, where you know a clean sheet goes a long way as well, because it’s against a team like Forge.”

Knowing it had been a long week for Forge, also critical was how Atléti pressed their advantage, doubling and then tripling their lead in the final 20 minutes of the match.

Last week against Pacific in the league for example, despite three earlier injuries for the Tridents meaning they could not make a second-half substitute, Atleti struggled to finish them off and won by a narrow 1-0 scoreline. Instead on Saturday it was a ruthless finish from Atlético Ottawa, showing an important progression in their game.

“It’s huge, it’s huge as a team,” said Aparicio. “It’s massive to see the subs come on and make such an impact. You know, Zapa [Alberto Zapater] comes on and scores a goal, then [Morer] comes on and creates the third one. Sacko comes on the other wing and is a menace out there. So it’s beautiful to see these guys being read, and when they got their opportunity they took it. And yeah, you know putting games to bed a little earlier is always nicer than going until the 94th, getting that 1-0.”


Atlético Ottawa manage the game well against road-weary Forge side 

Coming into Saturday’s match, Atlético Ottawa knew they had the advantage of facing a Forge side who had put in a significant amount of work to defeat CF Montréal midweek in the Canadian Championship. That match, which had a two-hour rain delay, was a gruelling affair.

In looking to use that in their favour on Saturday, Atlético Ottawa played a smart match where they managed the ball well throughout the 90 minutes. When they won it back, even in promising areas of the pitch, they looked to hold onto the ball, moving it around and forcing Forge’s tired defenders to chase as they moved it around the pitch.

The chart below shows the passing of forwards Ballou Tabla (#13) and Rubén del Campo (#19), specifically highlighting how well they moved the ball back in key moments to make sure Ottawa maintained possession instead of just rushing forward.

Rubén del Campo and Ballou Tabla passing data (Courtesy: Opta)

On other occasions, when they saw an opening they would go direct, as del Campo and Tabla did well to get in behind and stretch the Forge backline.

“It was a moment to make them run, to control, to do longer attacks, although we felt that we have the spaces to break them, sometimes it was a matter of having a bit more patience and taking the game to our side,” said González. “And I think we did it perfectly. Alternating these types of attacks is good for the team because it makes it difficult for opponents to direct us.”

While the Hamilton side allowed three goals for the first time this CPL season, it was on the offensive side of the ball, perhaps, where their fatigue truly showed. Forge made 78 final third entries, and had 22 touches in the Atleti box, but managed just seven shot attempts and just 0.31 expected goals. That was their lowest expected goal total in a CPL match this season.

“We’re in good spots, but we’re missing a little bit that sharpness on the finish, on the final ball,” said Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis. “Maybe that’s the psychological drain of Wednesday, but you’re Forge, if you want to be good, you have to learn how to play every three days, and we’ve done this before. And yeah, it’s unfortunate. It’s the first time we’ve come to the nation’s capital and lost the game, but that’s always going to happen at some point.”


Rubén del Campo ties league record with fifth straight game with a goal

Beyond the club history that Atlético Ottawa made, a bit of Canadian Premier League history was made on Saturday as striker Rubén del Campo tied the record for most consecutive games with a goal — tallying in his fifth straight match.

The record had previously been held solely by former Cavalry FC striker Aribim Pepple, who scored in five straight early in the 2022 CPL season. After failing to find the back of the net in 16 matches in his first season with Atlético Ottawa, he has clearly been more confident and clinical in 2024.

Including a brace in a 7-0 victory over Valour FC in the Canadian Championship, he has seven goals in nine games on the season as a whole. He also now leads the league’s Golden Boot race, one ahead of York United Striker Brian Wright.

It is far from just his goalscoring that has been important for the Ottawa club this season, however. Throughout the match on Saturday, del Campo made dangerous runs in behind, opening up space for his teammates and working the Forge backline throughout.

“He’s having the advantage of the momentum that he’s building on his play,” said González. “I’m not only happy about the goals that he’s scoring, but what he gives to the team. He’s capable to hold the ball in certain moments and give us possession. He’s able to press high, to be aggressive and to give problems to the centre backs of the other team. He’s capable to thread in behind the defensive line. So he’s doing many good things.”

On Saturday, del Campo’s excellent hold up play saw him win three fouls, often helping his side relieve pressure in difficult moments. He also completed 11 of his 13 passes, key in Atlético maintaining possession. Player of the Match

Manny Aparicio, Atlético Ottawa 

It was another outstanding performance in Atleti colours for Aparicio, who scored a stunning goal just 13 minutes into the match. He punctuated that with an all-round incredible performance, winning possession ten times as he dominated in midfield.

What’s next?

Atlético Ottawa hit the road for a crucial Canadian Championship quarter-final second leg against Pacific FC on Wednesday, May 29 at Starlight Stadium (10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 PT). They then return home for their next match in league action on Sunday, June 2 as they host the Halifax Wanderers (2:00 p.m. ET).

Forge, meanwhile, host the 905 derby for the first time in league action this year, as in-form York United come to town on Saturday, June 1 (4:00 p.m. ET).

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