Atletico Ottawa Faces Tough ‘Mentality Test’ At The Kickoff
Canadian Premier League side Atletico Ottawa seemed like a force to be reckoned with after the opening CPL weekend: fresh off of a full preseason in Spain, the club secured a late winner against FC Edmonton to notch three points right off the bat.
The match saw Spanish midfielder Viti Martinez pick up a knock that would see him miss the next two games, with left winger Ryan Telfer then departing to join the Trinidad and Tobago national team for the 2021 Gold Cup. With matches flying in thick and fast, the expansion side dropped to a 4-1 defeat against Cavalry FC, a 2-0 loss to Valour, and then a 1-0 loss to Pacific FC last night.
The frustration on the pitch was palpable, with head coach Mista admitting that the side didn’t look comfortable against its west coast opposition, and veteran defender Drew Beckie surmising that there was an issue with squad mentality on the night.
With the side now set to face Cavalry FC on Sunday, the club’s coach is hoping that ‘secret weapon’ Alberto Soto will finally be able to make his debut. Fans had largely expected him to dress last night, though Mista clarified that a paperwork clearance issue prevented him from playing, despite everything from the club’s end being ready. More than likely, he’ll be ready to help right the proverbial ship against Cavalry this weekend, with Mista saying some fresh legs are needed.
Soto’s a young talent that can definitely help us, another man – we don’t have too many options on the bench, and everybody needs to stand up and be present. We definitely look forward to having Soto in there, to help bring some creativity, and bring the ball into spaces kind of like Bustos does.Drew Beckie
Of course, the absence of Soto isn’t the only issue the club is playing through: Pacific FC made great use of the right side of the pitch, with Kadin Chung and Marco Bustos linking up to continually find one another and put Atletico Ottawa under all kinds of pressure, especially with Vashon Neufville often caught out alone to deal with both Pacific men at once.
Mista didn’t shy away from admitting the club has suffered a lot defensively on the left side over the last three losses, with the club needing to find a solution quickly. Of course, Telfer being away on national duty is a big miss for the side on that flank, both in terms of creativity up front and helping contest for possession on the left side.
Yeah, we miss Ryan. We got him in the first game and he was a very important winger for us, and for this reason he plays for the national team. We need to get used to the situation we have now, and try to do our best, and wait for the player to return as soon as possible because we need everyone.Mista
While the core of the Atletico Ottawa defense did well as a collective, the team has struggled to create meaningful attacks in the final third: as things stand, the team ranks dead last in terms of xG with just two from four matches played, only two big chances created, and the least goalscoring opportunities out of any team.
The absence of an exciting winger like Jordan Webb, too, isn’t easy to swallow, and it remains unclear if he will join the team following the conclusion of the Winnipeg-based bubble. Atletico Ottawa’s solution will need to come from within the club’s current camp.
While Mista credited the team for shooting more than they did last match, last night saw only one shot on target compared to two against Valour beforehand. All-told, the club has yet to record more than two shots on target in a single match during its time in Winnipeg, and that’s something that will need to change if Atletico Ottawa is going to turn the tide.
Not even close to the start of the season we were looking for. We’re at a low point right now as a club, but football is a strange game and can change quickly. Appreciate all the support back home, you guys drive us to demand more from ourselves. We’ll bounce back.Chris Mannella
After four matches played, the side currently rests two points below where it was at this point last season. While that inaugural campaign also saw the club collect three losses in its opening seven matches, none of them came back-to-back, with the recent trio of results marking both new territory for the young team and a new test for its resolve.
Mista says the club will be focusing on player mentality, and the message was simple: there’s a lot of work to do, and it’s far from over. If the mentality issue has established deep roots, however, one wonders whether the arrival of Alberto Soto will be enough for an upheaval next week – though as Mannella says, things can change quickly in football. Forge bouncing back after a tough open is proof enough.
Whether it’s tired bodies, missing bodies, player mentality, or tactical issues, Atletico Ottawa fans will be hoping that the club can build momentum in the latter half of the bubble ahead of a long overdue home opener, though there’s no league schedule for such just yet. Still, a TD Place homecoming represents a very bright light at the end of what has been a long, long tunnel for the expansion team.
For now, Atletico Ottawa will seek redemption against a Cavalry FC side for which it has an equal record against: one win, and one loss. The match will be available live on OneSoccer.
Photo Credit: CPL / Robert Reyes / William Ludwick