MATCH ANALYSIS: Vancouver FC and Atlético Ottawa settle for 1-1 draw despite frenetic 2nd half

Final Score: Vancouver FC 1-1 Atlético Ottawa
Goalscorers: Díaz 68′; del Campo 56′
Game of the 2024 season: 19
CPL match: 503

Match in a minute or less

Vancouver FC and Atlético Ottawa rounded off matchday #4 of the Canadian Premier League with a 1-1 draw at Langley’s Willoughby Community Park on Sunday.

After a quiet first half from both sides, the game came alive in the second half.  First, Atlético Ottawa opened the scoring in the 56th minute, as Rubén del Campo slotted home on a rebound after his team won the ball high up the pitch. Then, Vancouver responded with an equalizer in the 68th minute, as Alejandro Díaz headed home a Kadin Chung cross to tie things at 1-1.

From there, however, both teams were unable to find a winner despite both pushing for one late, leaving them to split the points in the end.

Three Observations

Frenetic second half push from Vancouver and Ottawa unable to yield winner:

To begin this game, both teams struggled to break down the other, making it look like a chess match.

At one end, Vancouver just couldn’t get anything going offensively, generating just one shot in the first half, as a pre-game switch to the 4-2-3-1 from the 4-2-2-2 didn’t end up working. Meanwhile, at the other end, while Ottawa were doing better, generating seven shots for a total of 1.35 xG, most of that xG came from a two-shot sequence from Ballou Tabla that he probably should’ve scored in the 31st minute – other than that, most of their chances were of the lower quality variety.

In the second half, however, things came alive as both teams looked to break open the game. Vancouver made the first move, subbing in the dangerous Alejandro Díaz to switch back to their preferred 4-2-2-2 set-up, before Ottawa responded by starting to press higher up the field and play more aggressively to put Vancouver under pressure.

Those moves ended up working, as Vancouver started to knock on Ottawa’s door, while Ottawa were starting to really put the pressure on their hosts, leading both teams to trade goals as they did in that fifteen-minute stretch.

Photo Credit: Vancouver FC/Beau Chevalier

Because of that, it seemed like this game still had more goals in it late, making it seem like someone was destined to leave with a winner.

Despite that, the winner didn’t come, however, as neither side were able to find that late breakthrough. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, as Vancouver had three shots in the final 15 minutes, while Ottawa had four, but neither had an attempt over 0.13 xG in that span, that being a late Aboubacar Sissoko chance that he could’ve done better with.

With that, it left both teams to settle for the draw. Ultimately, that’s a result that Vancouver can probably be happier with, as Ottawa ended up winning the shot battle 19-8 and the xG battle 2.62-0.31, but both teams can be pleased with the draw for different reasons.

For Vancouver, they’ll be pleased with the mentality that they showed to bounce back after conceding a goal off an individual error, especially given that they nearly pulled back a victory with their late push. Especially after back-to-back losses, they’ll be pleased with the fight that they showed on the day.

“Our mindset was to create opportunities and dangerous actions in their box,” Vancouver’s second-half hero Díaz said of his team’s response. “We played a lot of crosses, and put pressure on them in their box, and that was important for our confidence, and thankfully we got the goal.”

As for Ottawa, they’ll be content with how they played in a tough road environment, playing aggressively in search of a win, not content with grinding out a draw. More often than not, the sort of performance they had will yield a win, as long as they trust their process and not sway from the mentality they showed.

It can be hard to forget given their hot start, but this is still a team that’s gelling together after a busy offseason, so they’ll view these games as important building blocks in that learning process.

“We can be very proud of the effort that the team put on the field,” Ottawa head coach, Carlos González, said after the match. “It was a tough week, with three games in a short period of time and then a long travel, we did a good game. We should’ve had an advantage in the first half as we created a lot, and then in the second half it was more equal, because our energy dropped, so we see this as a point that’s not worth too much based on how we played, but in the future we’ll probably see it as a positive point.”

“We’re starting to learn from each other,” Manny Aparicio added. “There are a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces on the team, but as long as we keep on building those relationships, I think we’re on the right path.”

The xG plot from this game, with Ottawa in Purple and Vancouver in Black (OPTA)

Emergency Vancouver backline bends, doesn’t break vs. dangerous Ottawa attack:

Entering this match, Vancouver had to shake things up at the back, as some key absences forced them to adjust their defensive posture.

Instead of rocking with their usual centre back duo of Rocco Romeo and David Norman Jr., who had started every game of the year up to this point, Vancouver rolled out Anthony White and new signing Allan Enyou as a centre back pairing, as Norman Jr., picked up an injury in Vancouver’s last match against Cavalry, while Romeo was held out with illness.

Given that White was starting his first match of the season, while Enyou was making his first appearance for the club after signing on May 7th, it was a big task for the duo, especially against an Ottawa attack that has been on fire to begin the 2024 CPL season.

Enyou and White were supported by a pair of familiar faces – Paris Gee made his fifth consecutive start at left back, while Kadin Chung returned after an injury, but that didn’t make their task any easier.

To their credit, they navigated the hard part – despite some close calls, they made it to half time with their clean sheet still intact, with White and Enyou both making some key defensive interventions to keep Ottawa from scoring.

Unfortunately, that didn’t last long for them, and it came off a goal that Anthony White will want to forget. Caught in possession after trying to play out of the back, Ottawa punished him for that mistake, giving them the lead.

Vancouver’s Callum Irving, Anthony White and Allan Enyou after Ottawa’s first goal (Photo Credit: Vancouver FC/Beau Chevalier)

Yet, that’s where Enyou and White arguably did their finest work. Instead of sinking in the face of White’s error, they stepped up and finished the game on a high note, ensuring that would be the only goal they would concede on the night.

That’s crucial, as given their young age, with Enyou and White are both fresh-faced players in the professional game as a pair of 20-year-olds, one would’ve expected for their inexperience to show in that moment. They didn’t let that happen, however, and they made some big interventions to end off the game on a high note, standing tall to that wave of late Ottawa pressure.

At the same time, it shouldn’t be that surprising to see that from them. One of the big strengths of this Vancouver team this year has been their mentality, as they’ve proven to have short memories, not dwelling on any highs or lows that may occur.

As a young group in their first season as a club in 2023, that wasn’t always the case, but has been something they’ve done well to slowly change to start 2024, with Enyou and White’s strong showing in this game an example of what that change has looked like.

“Sometimes, when you put players in that situation, they have two options, and they took this (chance) and went for it,” Vancouver’s head coach Afshin Ghotbi said of his centre back duo. “Even if they make a mistake, they didn’t accept it, and I loved that mentality today, both of them.”

Rubén del Campo continuing to stake out spot up front for Ottawa:

As a striker, there’s nothing better than the feeling of having that first goal fall for you. Rubén del Campo felt that a few weeks prior, as he opened his Atlético Ottawa account in a 3-1 win over the Halifax Wanderers on April 27th.

Since then, it seems like everything he’s touched has turned into gold – first, he had a brace against Valour in the Canadian Championship, scored again vs. Valour in CPL action, and has now made it three CPL goals on the year with his tally in this match. After not scoring at all in 2023 after arriving midseason, that’s been a big change.

Not only that, but he was a constant presence up front for Ottawa, too, doing well to lead their line, making sure his impact would be felt in different ways.

In particular, his playmaking was an asset, as he created three chances, including one big chance, nearly setting up his teammates on a few occasions.

All of Rubén del Campo’s actions from this game (OPTA)

With that, he showed why he’s won the battle to lead the line for Ottawa in recent weeks. Having entered this year in a fight with Sam Salter for minutes, del Campo’s been able to stake out a regular spot thanks to his goals and overall play, allowing him to build some confidence off the back of this run.

For an Ottawa team filled with attacking talent, having a presence up front can make a big difference, opening up space for the likes of Ballou Tabla, Ollie Bassett, Manny Aparicio, Kris Twardek and more to create, which del Campo has certainly done with his hold-up play and passing.

Now, he’ll look to make the most of this run of games. As he’ll know, form can quickly change, and with Salter lurking, having scored 18 combined goals over the last two CPL season, he’ll be knocking on the door and pushing del Campo for more minutes very soon.

Either way, Ottawa will benefit from it, be it if del Campo keeps scoring, or if Salter finds his form and opens his 2024 account, giving them options up front in both scenarios.

For now, however, del Campo will look to retain his place for the weeks to come, building on this strong start to 2024, helping Ottawa continue their undefeated streak.

“I knew Rubén from my past with Atlético Madrid, I coached him for a few years with their U19s, so it’s not surprising to see that level,” González said. “He’s a player with lots of talent, he’s been a youth international player for Switzerland, he has a big resume, so it’s not surprising to see him hit a good level, scoring and helping the team.”

“He’s moving off the ball, he’s giving us options,” Aparicio added. “Today, he scored a goalscorers goal, a poacher’s goal, which if he can get five, six, seven of those this season, it will put him near the top of the Golden Boot race.”

“So this is amazing for him, but I just told him to keep his feet on the ground, he’s smiling a little bit, but it’s another goal, hopefully he keeps on going, because it’s helping us tremendously, and now, we got to get Sam (Salter) going here and get him on the scoresheet, as well, because we’re going to need everyone this season.” Player of the Match

Kadin Chung, Vancouver FC  

Making his return after an injury, Chung gave a much-needed boost to Vancouver in this game, providing an impact at both ends of the pitch.

That’s reflected in the numbers, as he had an assist, two dribbles and five passes into the final third offensively, combined with three tackles, four clearances, four interceptions, four recoveries and nine out of 14 duels won defensively, marking a complete performance.

All of Kadin Chung’s actions from this game (OPTA)

What’s next?

Vancouver FC will head out on the road for a game against Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Saturday, May 18th (1:00 p.m. PT/4:00 p.m. ET). Meanwhile, Atlético Ottawa will stick around in BC for a clash against Pacific FC at Starlight Stadium in Langford on Friday, May 17th (7:00 p.m. PT/10:00 p.m. ET).

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