PREVIEW: Atlético Ottawa vs. Cavalry FC — 2022 Match #2
Benedict Rhodes, CanPL.ca Contributor (@BTFR17)
2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #2 Atlético Ottawa vs. Cavalry FC April 9, 2022 at 3:00 p.m. ET TD Place in Ottawa, Ontario Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here
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Atlético Ottawa hosts the second match of the 2022 Canadian Premier League season on Saturday afternoon, as Cavalry FC head to the nation’s capital to kick off their campaign at TD Place.
Ottawa, led by new head coach Carlos Gonzalez, are hoping that offseason investments have paid off, and they will be able to turn a team that finished 8th in 2021 into one that can compete for a spot in the playoffs. In the other corner, Tommy Wheeldon Jr.’s side are hoping to build their way up to another crack at the playoffs, where they have been unable to clear the final hurdle a few times now, with the Cavalry boss saying on Friday that the regular season is a “28-game qualifier”.
The regular season begins on Saturday for both teams, who have high expectations coming into their third and fourth seasons, respectively. It will hopefully be a first “normal” season for Ottawa, whose inaugural season was seven games in a bubble on Prince Edward Island, followed by another bubble in Winnipeg and limited capacities in the stands from August onwards.
“It’s a tough start,” Gonzalez said of his team’s opponents in a press conference on Friday. “They are solid, they have had great results in the last seasons, with most of the same players and same coach. I know it’s going to be a tough start, but we have trying to prepare the team for this.
“Success will be if tomorrow we compete. The final result will be a consequence of how we act on the field. The message is very clear, from the first day we have to believe in the process, to work on the process, and to perform well so we can have results.”
Ottawa have recruited some impressive players, from both within and outside the CPL. The biggest name is attacker Ballou Tabla, formerly of CF Montreal and Barcelona B, but other additions like midfielder Ollie Bassett, goalkeeper Nathan Ingham and Atletico Madrid loanee defender Diego Espejo, will all have big roles to play. Also returning to the city is the player many consider to be one of the best in Ottawa Fury history, fullback and winger Carl Haworth.
Cavalry have made some big additions as well, signing a pair of Canadian internationals in Fraser Aird from local rivals FC Edmonton, and Charlie Trafford — cousin of newly-appointed club captain Mason Trafford — from Welsh side Wrexham. Karifa Yao, one of the league’s standout defenders a year ago, is also back with the club on loan from CF Montreal for a second year.
Playing matches in home grounds with fans for an entire season is something that hasn’t happened in the CPL since the inagural 2019 season. 2020 was played entirely in a bubble environment, as were the first eight rounds of the 2021 season, so beginning their season with a match in front of a good crowd in the nation’s capital isn’t being taken for granted by Wheeldon Jr.
“It’s some sense of normalcy in terms of a balanced schedule, a really good playoff format, and the fact that our fans will be in stands,” he said on Friday. “That’s why we play this sport, we want fans home and away because that’s what this game is about.”
Atlético Ottawa have historically played very well against Cavalry. The club’s first ever win came against the Cavs at the Island Games in 2020, a 2-0 victory with goals from Malcolm Shaw and Ben Fisk, who now plays for Cavalry. Fisk was the club’s captain in their inaugural season, and while he never got to play for the club at TD Place, this will be his second trip to the nation’s capital as an opposing player.
Ottawa won two of the three matches between the two sides in 2021. In their second match of the 2021 season, in the Kickoff bubble in Winnipeg, Cavalry won 4-1 on a brace from Ahinga Selemani, and goals from Victor Loturi and Elliot Simmons, with Miguel Acosta scoring the lone goal for Ottawa. In their second meeting a couple of weeks later in the bubble, Malcolm Shaw and Antoine Coupland secured all three points for Ottawa in a 2-0 victory.
The third meeting was in Ottawa on September 25. Drew Beckie gave his team the lead two minutes in, before Loturi scored to make it 1-1. Malcolm Shaw scored the winner from the penalty spot just before halftime, and Brian Wright added another in the second half for a 3-1 win.
This matchup is always an exciting one, and could be another excited match as the opening round of the 2022 Canadian Premier League season continues.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH:
Carlos Gonzalez set to take charge of Ottawa for the first time: After joining the club in the offseason, taking over from Mista, new Ottawa head coach Carlos Gonzalez will step onto the sidelines for a Canadian Premier League match for the first time on Saturday. The 36-year-old has been a coach in the Malaga and Atletico Madrid academy setups, and most recently was in charge of the Kuwait national team. He was announced as the new Ottawa head coach on February 24, and has since been with the team for their preseason in Madrid, and more recently back in Ottawa. “We are very excited, to know our field and our fans for a league game,” said Gonzalez in a press conference on Friday. “We are not over-excited, this is an important thing — we know that this is one round from lots of rounds. At the end of the day we’re prepared, we have ambition, and we hope that the team tomorrow behaves as we’ve been behaving in the last month of the preseason and have a good match.”
Cavalry missing key players through injury: It was announced on Friday morning that four Cavalry players will be out for unknown amounts of time while dealing with serious injuries. Goalkeeper Tyson Farago suffered a back injury after a car accident in the offseason, left back Tom Field injured his knee during a training session, and striker Anthony Novak damaged his ACL during a training session. No timeline was given for any of their returns, and Field and Novak required surgery according to the club’s press release. Midfielder Joe Di Chiara will also be out for an estimated 12-16 weeks after an MCL injury during a training session. “Unfortunately in a contact sport, and especially in football, you’re going to have some threatening injuries. A long offseason doesn’t really help, because players can do their 5k runs, but they’re doing them in a straight lines,” said Wheeldon Jr in a pregame press conference later on Friday. ” The twists, turns, the impact and intensity is hard to replicate unless you have a long preseason, which is something we have to consider going forward. It’s no different to Forge losing Krutzen last year, Jean-Baptiste and Ricci at Valour, key players. The weather in Canada means we have to train and play on turf, and the turf monster is not a forgiving one if you get a bad foot plant — it’s the nature of the beast and it’s something we’ve always got to adapt and overcome ourselves and as a league.” With Marco Carducci also expected to be out as he recovers from an operation following a testicular cancer diagnosis, Julian Roloff, recently signed from FC Köln II, will likely get the start in goal.
Ottawa dedicating home opener to Ukraine, proceeds going to humanitarian efforts: Atlético Ottawa are dedicating their first match of the season to the people of Ukraine after the recent invasion. The club has brought back its “Pay What You Can” initiative to get fans into the stadium, with proceeds from ticket sales going to the Ministry of Social Policy for Ukraine funds to help with humanitarian assistance for displaced Ukranians. The club will also be wearing one-off yellow and blue kits for the match, which will be auctioned off afterwards by The Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Ottawa. “It’s a great initiative, once I knew that the club was going to push for this situation, I thought it was a great movement,” said Ottawa head coach Carlos Gonzalez on Friday. “I feel that we have to work to help each other, and to help the world be better, so I think it’s great. I hope that it’s not a very rainy day so people come and support and we all leave a great soccer party for the first day — we’re going to work for that, so people [go home] happy, and everything is the right way.” The latest update from the club was that 4,000 tickets were sold as of Thursday at noon, and tickets are still available here.
Atlético Ottawa wins: 3 || Cavalry FC wins: 1 || Draws: 0
September 25, 2021 – Atlético Ottawa 3-1 Cavalry FC
“Most of [the players] are showing a very high level. The team as a whole is impressing me, because we haven’t had too much time to work with them, but in five weeks we have already created a strong identity, we know the phases of the game. I think that this has to be the main strength, the team all together.” — Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos Gonzalez
“Because everything’s been behind closed doors and they’ve spent a month in Madrid, you go into it a bit blind. They’re certainly a bogey team for us, irrespective of them finishing last last season — I think they’ll be one of the threats this season. They no doubt will have been working off of the Madrid blueprint with the Madrid staff and philosophy there. Fernando (Lopez) and his team have put together an excellent, the best one they’ve had in all three years, so they’ve definitely earned our respect.” — Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr