MATCH ANALYSIS: Pacific pick up three points in Ottawa despite leaving multiple key players at home

Final Score: Atlético Ottawa 0-1 Pacific FC
Goalscorers: Bahous 45+3′
Game of the 2024 season: 50
CPL match: 534

Match in a minute or less

Pacific FC picked up three points at TD Place on Sunday, beating Atlético Ottawa 1-0 thanks to an excellent strike from former Ottawa midfielder Zakaria Bahous.

With seconds left in the first half, Bahous beat Rayane Yesli with an inch-perfect shot into the bottom left corner of the net on one of the last kicks before the break. Ottawa tried to turn the game around in the second half, but couldn’t find an elusive goal despite coming close on several occasions — most notably Sam Salter hitting the crossbar with a header from inside the six-yard box, and Ollie Bassett missing a stoppage time penalty.

With the win, Pacific moved up to fourth in the Canadian Premier League table, climbing over Forge FC, while Ottawa remain at the top of the table, now just five points ahead of York United.

Three Observations

Ottawa rue missed opportunities, including multiple chances to score late

Atlético Ottawa outshot Pacific FC 22-6 in this match, including 15-3 in the second half, but left TD Place without anything to show for it.

The second half in particular was dominant from the home side, and they came close to finding the back on several occasions. After coming off the bench at halftime, Manny Aparicio thought he tied the game when a shot squeezed by Emil Gazdov and trickled toward the goal line. Cédric Toussaint lunged and prevented it from fully crossing the line.

That goal could have been a crushing blow for Pacific, who were already struggling to gain momentum from the home side. Ruben Del Campo forced an excellent save out of Emil Gazdov moments later, and Ottawa kept sending waves and waves of attacks to no avail.

Sam Salter came closer than anyone for Atlético Ottawa, striking the crossbar with a header from inside the six yard box late in the game. Had that gone in, Ottawa might have even been expected to go on and find a second given their recent history of scoring stoppage time goals to pick up points.

Ollie Bassett, who is usually clinical from the penalty spot, had a golden opportunity from 12 yards out in stoppage time as well, but he skied his effort over the bar — a microcosm of the match as a whole as the team failed to take advantage of the opportunities they created.

“Ultimately I don’t think we can say that we didn’t create chances today because we did,” said Ottawa defender Kris Twardek after the match. “On another day, maybe there’s four or five goals there to be honest, but we lose the game.”

Rotated Tridents squad delivers important victory with strong away performance

Pacific FC play one of the biggest matches in club history on Wednesday night, as they welcome the Vancouver Whitecaps to town again for the first leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal.

With an eye on that match, James Merriman left several key players at home — including captain Josh Heard, defenders Kunle Dada-Luke and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, and forward Adonijah Reid. Reon Moore and Ayman Sellouf travelled with Pacific to Ottawa, but were limited to appearances off the bench. With so many key players out of the starting eleven, James Merriman had to experiment a bit with his starting lineup, playing Dario Zanatta through the middle with Steffen Yeates just behind him, with Zakaria Bahous on the right side and Cedric Toussaint on the left, with Sean Young and Pierre Lamothe holding down the fort in the middle of the park.

It was always going to be a very defensive performance with five midfielders and one natural attacker on the pitch, and for the most part it stayed that way. The Tridents were comfortable sitting deep in two blocks of four — the backline, and the midfielders minus Yeates — to keep Ottawa in front of them as much as possible, a strategy that worked well for the most part.

Pacific’s chances to score came primarily on the counter-attack, including the game’s only goal, scoring by Bahous.

“I think they’ve done what they came to do,” said Carlos Gonzalez after the match. “They came to defend, they came to have one or two chances and be ruthless in those moments. They were, and we weren’t able to score in many situations that we created.

“We have to be ruthless in those types of situations because we start to see the pattern that teams that come to play at TD Place play. We have to work on that.”

On Wednesday, the Tridents will look to get back to their best with a full team in front of their home fans, but for an away game in these circumstances, it was a professional performance that saw them pick up three massive points.

Rayane Yesli watches Zakaria Bahous’ goal sail past him into the back of the net. (PHOTO: Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography)

Bahous scores impressive goal as his former side are left frustrated

The lone goal on Sunday came off the foot of Zakaria Bahous, the former Atlético Ottawa midfielder who made the move to the west coast in September 2023 after mutually agreeing to terminate his contract with Ottawa that July.

Playing on the right side of Pacific’s formation in this match, Bahous received the ball from Georges Mukumbilwa before cutting into a more central position. None of the Ottawa defenders stepped forward to try and close him down, so he took a few more steps to set his feet and fired a shot into the bottom left corner of the net, past a diving Rayane Yesli.

To rub salt in the wound, Bahous immediately ran to celebrate in front of his former fans in section W of TD Place.

It was a goal that Ottawa felt was preventable, especially with seconds left in the first half of a game where they were primarily on the front foot.

“It just feels kind of self-induced,” said Twardek of the loss after the match. “They basically scored on our way into the dressing room, like it couldn’t have been later into the half. We were in control of the game, second half we’re in control of the game, we miss countless chances, and then the cherry on top is obviously the penalty at the end.

“It’s a frustrating result, a frustrating game.” Player of the Match

Georges Mukumbilwa, Pacific FC

Filling in at right back, Georges Mukumbilwa provided an assist on the winning goal, and was defensively sound against a loaded Ottawa attack. He was unlucky to have a penalty called against him in second half stoppage time as the ball struck his arm, which was tucked in at his side, but it was inconsequential in the end as Ollie Bassett sent the kick over the crossbar.

What’s next?

Atlético Ottawa travel to the west coast next weekend, opening matchweek 14 with a Friday night match away to Vancouver FC (7 pm PT/10 pm ET). Pacific are back in Ontario next weekend to play Forge FC, but before that they return to Starlight Stadium for the first leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal against Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps (7 pm PT/10 pm ET).

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