Match Analysis: Valour FC 1-1 Atlético Ottawa — CPL Match #98

Final Score: Valour FC 1-1 Atlético Ottawa
Goalscorers: Jean-Baptiste 68′ ; Bassett 78′
Game of the 2022 season: 98
CPL match: 348

Match in a minute or less

In a crucial top-four clash, fourth-place Valour FC hosted second-place Atlético Ottawa at IG Field on Sunday, continuing a busy weekend of CPL action. 

Yet, for all of the fireworks that were expected from both teams, the first half came and went with no goals, as defence proved to be the flavour of the day, not offence. 

Despite that, however, goals and fireworks would eventually come at the end, as Andrew Jean-Baptiste first made it 1-0 for Valour in the 68th minute, before Ottawa’s Ollie Bassett responded with an Olimpico to tie things up in the 78th minute, which is where things would finish despite some good chances from both teams to win it over the last 10 minutes of action.

Three Observations

Race for playoffs, regular season title remains as tight as ever after draw: 

There’s been no shortage of drama the last few weeks in the Canadian Premier League. 

As the race toward both the playoffs and the regular season title heats up, everyone has stepped up their performances, knowing that it’s do-or-die time in terms of those crucial battles. 

This game was no exception, as both teams came out with the intent of gaining some ground, but in the end, they were left to share the spoils on the day. 

It almost didn’t begin that game, surprisingly, as Valour arguably almost blew the gates off of Ottawa in the first half, putting together a performance that saw them do everything but score, but having weathered that, Ottawa came alive in the second half, and could’ve arguably won the game themselves with how they finished the game. 

Therefore, while the game was almost split in two with how one team dominated each stanza, in the end, that leaves the draw as a fair result, showing how closely competitive the match was on the day.

That was reflected in the fact that this game was also almost impossible to split statistically, interestingly enough, just further showing how close things were despite those differing halves. 

For example, the Expected Goals (xG) battle was 1.03 to 1.03 for both teams, even though Valour outshot Ottawa 13 to eight, as Ottawa made more of their fewer shots and possession (Valour also out possessed them 59.4 to 41.6% in the game). 

The attack areas for both teams, reflecting the strong midfield battle in this game (OPTA)
The attack areas for both teams, reflecting the strong midfield battle in this game (OPTA)

If anything, however, that just shows how much of a chess match this game was, as ironically, it’s typically Ottawa that holds a lot of the ball, and Valour who likes to be efficient with their shooting numbers, but in this game, the opposite happened. 

With both coaches heaping heavy praise on the other before the game, that was obviously reflected in how they coached the game, too, as both teams tried to limit space in their respective back five formations. 

Along with some relatively conservative sub plans, which saw both managers mostly stick to like-for-like subs, before Ottawa really shut things down with some defensive subs late on, that led to a good chess match, one in which neither team could find the checkmate they needed. 

Yet, that’s just been a common theme in a lot of these top matches as of late, as teams have been quite shrewd in how they approach it, and that has been reflected in the high level of competition that has been on display, both in terms of quality of play as well as the tactics.

“It’s the game I expected it to be,” Valour head coach, Phil Dos Santos, noted afterwards. “I didn’t expect differently, we alerted the players for what (Ottawa) were and what they weren’t in and out of possession, what their main threats were, where they wanted to attack, how they play in the spaces, and how they do it, so for us the tactically, with their threats, we knew it would be a tactical battle.”

“But I think right now, leading into this phase of the season, teams are minimizing risks, so matches become a little bit more of a chess game, and that’s normal, as every point is valuable, every moment is important, so that’s why I’d say this game felt like two-legged playoff battle.”

“We knew that it was going to be a game of details,” Ottawa head coach, Carlos González, added on his end. “A game in which we had to control every single detail that we have in order to be keep focused during the 95 minutes of the game.”

“But that’s just normal at this stage of the season.”

Sean Rea continues to be a difference-maker for Valour: 

In their last game out, a 1-0 loss to the Halifax Wanderers, it was noted that Valour felt like they lacked a bit of their usual offensive flair in the final third, where they were short of creativity, movement and ideas in that game.

This time out, however, that would not be an issue, as Valour looked far sharper in the attack, even despite being paired up against an Ottawa team that has been one of, if not the best, defensive teams in the league this season. 

A big reason for that change, however? The play of Sean Rea, who after a quiet game against the Wanderers, stepped up in a big way for his team, putting together a memorable performance. 

Especially with leading scorer and main threat offensively, Moses Dyer, out for this game with a knock, that left Rea to shoulder a lot of the creative load, something that he and Dyer often share. 

Yet, despite that, Rea once again proved that he’s a formidable creative player in his own right, finishing with four key passes, including the one that would become the assist on Jean-Baptiste’s goal, while coming close to racking up a few others elsewhere in the game.

Plus, with that assist, that also put him up to eight on the campaign, too, which is actually the most for a player in a single season, surpassing the old record of seven set by Edmonton’s Tobias Warschewski last season, just showing how good he’s been in 2022. 

That was seen in this game, as his creativity seemed to benefit someone like Walter Ponce, who had an excellent game up front, as well as Matteo De Brienne, who also benefitted from the space that Rea created for his teammates.

All of Sean Rea's actions from this game (OPTA)
All of Sean Rea’s actions from this game (OPTA)

Which, for Valour, is key. 

As seen in their recent games, they won’t give up much defensively (they’ve conceded just four goals in their last nine matches, just one of them in open play), giving a platform for their offensive players to really break open games. 

Having really found their defensive identity, one that their whole side has bought into, that has played a big role in their recent resurgence, with their offensive players, in particular, benefiting from their strong defensive identity. 

“We said we wanted to be a defensive powerhouse,” Jean-Baptiste explained.

“When you limit other teams’ chances, that keeps our attacking guys to a point where they don’t have to think about needing to score three goals for us to win knowing that we can just keep up defensive performance and that one goal will be all we need to win.”

Therefore, Rea, who is now up to five goals and eight assists on the season, is certainly benefiting from that right now, as seen by the statistics, as well as his performances, which seem to get better each week. 

Not only is he contributing, but is finding the consistency that can sometimes dog young players, and for Dos Santos, that is what he’s most pleased about, and hopes Rea can continue as his team sets out on their most crucial stretch of the season. 

Knowing that big things are to come in the future for the CF Montréal loanee, more performances like this for Valour can show them that he is the Djordje Mihailovic replacement that Montréal needs, even if they don’t realize it quite yet. 

“Sean put a good ball in and he’s done that since the beginning of the season,” Dos Santos said of Rea. “I’m glad for him that assist is a record. I’m glad for him because he’s a kid that works hard on details, he always wants to be on the ball, and to take responsibility in these situations.”

He added: “The Sean that is on the field today, he’s a more complete and more mature player, he’s working both sides of the ball, he keeps his feet moving, and when it’s like that, good things are going to happen.”

“So I’m happy with his progression, so for him now, it’s seeing what he’s going to do for the team in the next games that we have, and then seeing what’s the next level, what’s the next step for him.”

Ollie Bassett puts team on back at big moment with crucial goal, performance: 

Down a goal in the 78th minute, in danger of giving up three massive points to Valour, Ottawa needed a hero to step up. 

Especially against a Valour defence that has been so solid as of late, any offence was going to be welcomed for the visitors, who had mostly been unable to threaten Jonathan Sirois other than one solid chance in either half from Brian Wright and Ballou Tabla. 

There in the 78th minute, however, up stepped Ollie Bassett, who in an instant, created a crucial moment of magic. 

Stepping up to a corner kick, he ran up, curled the ball and connected sweetly, wrapping the ball around everyone and into the opposite corner, all in a flash, giving his team the moment that they needed to tie the game. 

Not only that, but they almost won the match after that, too, all off the back of that goal, one that gave them all sorts of momentum with just over 10 minutes to go. 

Speaking of, did he mean that Olimpico? According to himself, not really, even if the replay might suggest otherwise. 

“I just tried to put it on the keeper, to get across it and get as much kind of whip on it as possible,” Bassett explained. “It was kind of cross-cum-shot, I guess. And then yeah, I was kind of lucky that it went into the far post.”

Yet, that’s the sort of moment that Bassett, who with that goal jumped to sixth in the CPL’s Golden Boot race with eight goals (three PK goals), has been able to provide for Ottawa in 2022. Along with one assist, and several other secondary assists that won’t be counted, he’s been a crucial offensive difference-maker for this Ottawa side on most nights, with this match being no exception. 

Despite playing in the heart of midfield, he has a knack for making things happen when he’s on the ball, driving forward with it at every opportunity, always looking for that killer pass or shot. 

Along with his proficiency on set pieces, especially when it comes to shooting opportunities, it’s made him one of the more important offensive players in the league, one that opposing defenders can’t take an eye off of. 

“Everyone’s bought into the way that we want to play, both the way we want to attack and defend as a team,” Bassett said of his role in the team. “And I think for me, the most important thing off the back of last season was trying to find somewhere where I could get regular games and really express myself, so I’m fortunate for the opportunity that the club has given me this season and I’ve just tried to make the most of it.”

All of Ollie Bassett's actions from this game (OPTA)
All of Ollie Bassett’s actions from this game (OPTA)

For a team who doesn’t score as many goals (Ottawa’s 29 goals are the lowest of any top-five CPL team), has been crucial, too, oftentimes giving them the juice that they need to pick up results.

On this day, that was no exception, allowing them to grab a crucial draw, one that at the end of the year, could be the difference between Ottawa becoming regular season champions and missing out on the playoffs altogether, especially given how tight things have been this season.

Therefore, as the playoff push continues, look for Bassett to provide more ‘Olliewood’ moments for his team, as he did in this game, helping them see this memorable regular season campaign from his team over the line. 

“Ollie’s in a sweet, sweet moment right now,” González said. “Ollie has been doing a great job all season.”

“We trust him so much, and he’s given a big effort with and without the ball, so we are happy to have him, because while it’s true that he’s given a lot of things like goals and assists, but he’s also given a lot of things both off and on the field to help the team, too.” Player of the Match

Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Valour FC

In a game of defensive prowess, it’s only fitting that a defender takes the honours of the player of the game, making Andrew Jean-Baptiste a good shout here. Not only was he his usual reliable self defensively for Valour, winning four out of five duels while racking up one tackle, one interception and three clearances, but he chipped in nicely on offence, scoring a goal and nearly adding another off of set pieces. Along with some good passing, that capped off a solid game from the Valour captain, who has continued to be a big part of his team’s recent surge.

All of Andrew Jean-Baptiste's actions from this game (OPTA)
All of Andrew Jean-Baptiste’s actions from this game (OPTA)

What’s next?

Valour will head out to Ontario this week, as they get set to face York United on Friday, September 23rd at York Lions Stadium (6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET), kicking off a crucial three-match road trip to close out their season. Meanwhile, Ottawa will also head out on the road, as they head to Calgary to take on Cavalry in another crucial top-four clash on Saturday, September 24th at ATCO Field (3:30 p.m. MT/5:30 p.m. ET). 

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