May 20, 2024
  • May 20, 2024
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Five Things To Watch With Atletico Ottawa This Month

By on May 8, 2024 0 667 Views

After dispatching Valour in both league and cup play over the past week, Atletico Ottawa gaffer Carlos Gonzalez opened his postgame presser with a simple affirmation:

“We can be very satisfied.”

To the casual observer, that seems to be an understatement – particularly with Atletico Ottawa remaining undefeated in both league and cup play, scoring a tournament record win in the latter ahead of tonight’s quarter-final clash with Pacific.

They’re resting top of the league table with the most goals scored and tied for first on goal differential, though the opening stanza is but one part of the season.

Extending outwards into the long season ahead of them – including those two Canadian Championship quarter-final matches against Pacific – here’s five things to watch with Atletico Ottawa:

Atletico Ottawa Ruben Del Campo Darlington Murasiranwa
Photo Credit: Matt Zambonin

Ruben Del Campo In ‘A Sweet Moment’

Call it the Gretzky number curse if you want, but it’s uncanny: after going scoreless in sixteen appearances as Ottawa’s Number 99 last season, Swiss striker Ruben Del Campo switched his kit number to 19 and now has four goals from his last three matches.

“He’s in a sweet moment. I am happy for him, I think that he has been working for a long time very hard. He deserves this moment that he is living, but at the end of the day we still have a long season, and I also expect a lot from him,” says Gonzalez, who also notes that he expects plenty from competing striker Samuel Salter, who Gonzalez says will have his own opportunities coming up, too.

“The important part is that in all the positions, players understand there is healthy competitiveness for them, and at the end of the day this is better for them and better for the team.”

Atletico Ottawa Kris Twardek Goal
Photo Credit: Tim Austen

Player Versatility Will Be Clutch In Long Season

While players like Amer Didic, Manny Aparicio, and Ballou Tabla dominated much of the headlines in Ottleti‘s wildly fruitful offseason and will certainly play into how it pans out, Carlos Gonzalez also makes note that the versatility of some signings will play a significant role in a long-haul conquest for silverware, too.

For example, the gaffer pointed out that there are numerous players who can play both full-back and winger, like Matteo de Brienne, Kris Twardek, and recent loanee Dani Morer.

“We have a couple of those, and it’s very important in a long season in which you have a lot of games to have these types of players that can perform really well in different positions, because it makes it easier for me as a coach to maintain balance on some loads, some minutes, and maintain the performance of the team.”

Gonzalez says the design of squad was built with versatile signings in mind, with Atletico Ottawa working hard to secure players who can perform in multiple positions, or transition from the inside and outside to offer more options, too.

Atletico Ottawa Amer Didic
Photo Credit: Matt Zambonin

Clicking At The Back, Too

The attacking players will take their flowers for tallying an incredible fifteen goals in the club’s first five games of the year, including that seven-nil cup drubbing of Valour. In league play they’re top of the goalscoring charts, but it’s fair to say the backline is certainly stepping up, too.

The defensive unit has limited goals conceded to 0.6 goals per game on average, with Rayane Yesli and Nate Ingham both collecting their first clean sheets over the past week of action against Valour.

“I see that as a unit we are defending pretty well with great moments of high pressure. We are not conceding too much. We are trying to play most of the time in the opponent’s field, so I think that is one of the reasons that we are maintaining other teams out of these dangerous areas. As a whole, I am pleased with how we are growing and developing little-by-little.”

Gonzalez highlights the partnership between Amer Didic and Luke Singh as one that is growing more solid with every passing game, while the defensive unit as a whole has been pleasing in their performance levels.

Atletico Ottawa Gabriel Antinoro
Photo Credit: Tim Austen

Youth Minutes To Come Little-By-Little

Sunday’s win over Atletico Ottawa saw the club tally more than double the domestic U-21 minutes it had accrued in the three league games beforehand, with Gabriel Antinoro and Zachary Roy combining for 90 minutes in the match. Ottawa had entered the matchweek with the lowest tally out of any CPL side, though Gonzalez isn’t worried about reaching the league-mandated 2,000 minute mark by the season’s end.

“We will go little-by-little. We don’t have a big strategy at the moment: the players that are in the starting lineup is because they deserve it. We saw it today with Gabi. Roy is also working hard and he is getting near to having those minutes, and Tyr Walker is also working hard.”

It was a fine display from former CF Montreal youngster Gabriel Antinoro, who scored a tidy goal for himself and featured for 81 minutes in all. The gaffer revealed that Antinoro had overcome an injury in preseason, with the club having built him up ‘little-by-little’. After the youngster came off the bench and notched an assist against Valour midweek, Gonzalez felt he was ready for a bigger opportunity in league play.

“I think that we have three good young players that, each time are going be better prepared to not only give us U-21 minutes, but to give us performance. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.”

Atletico Ottawa Celebrate
Photo Credit: Tim Austen / Freestyle Photography

Come What May

It’s been a busy start to May with two games already occurring just three days apart. The club will pack five more matches into this month, including three games against Pacific (a league match and its home-and-away cup clash), a trip to Langley against Vancouver FC, and home matches against Forge and Halifax.

“This month is going to be so demanding physically with trips and a lot of games in a short amount of time. It’s not going to be easy to win and win and win, we have to try to make balance and maintain the consistency, the self-demands of the team. I think that’s going to be critical in this month,” says Gonzalez.

Having already wrapped two of May’s seven games with back-to-back wins against Valour, one thing Gonzalez certainly has pushing the proverbial sails is momentum. Ottleti has yet to taste defeat in 2024, tallying four wins and one draw thus far.

“I think every win makes you be near another win because mentally you’re in a good mood and you’re starting to get good connections between the players,” adds Gonzalez.

After failing to make playoffs last season, it’s clear that Atletico Ottawa has started 2024 on the right foot after what will go down as an all-time great offseason. That’s all well and good on paper, but it was the first five games of the year that have shown Ottleti‘s DNA has progressed, and continues to do so.

With five more games to come before the calendar page turns once again, how the club continues to grow as it gets repeatedly tested will be exciting to witness. The club will be back in action tonight, hosting Pacific FC for the first leg of the Canadian Championship quarter-final.

The two sides have met in knockout action before through league playoffs, though players like Manny Aparicio and Amer Didic have swapped sides in the time since. It should be a fun one available on OneSoccer and Telus Optik Channel 980, though fuboTV subscribers won’t find it on the main feet tonight.

Header Image Photo Credit: Freestyle Photography

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