Ingham ‘Ready To Step Up’ To Higher Level
The kid from Keswick has come a long way, with Nathan Ingham now one of the more veteran goalkeepers in Canada’s professional circles.
The 30-year-old is now in the midst of his fifth Canadian Premier League season after helping Atletico Ottawa finish as regular season champions last year. With 106 appearances between Atletico Ottawa and York United behind him, he’s still got his eyes on the future.
Now in the final few months on a two year deal, Nate recently made clear on his desire to keep growing in a recent interview with OneSoccer.
“I think for the first time in my career I’m ready to step up into a higher level. I don’t think a couple of years ago…maybe I sit behind and I’m a back-up or a third string, but now I think I’d be able to push minutes with some of the top goalkeepers in North America and really test myself,” revealed the veteran.
Ingham has clasped hold of a league-leading 35% clean sheet rate for keepers with ten or more appearances, securing five in fourteen appearances. While Henry and Yesli have six apiece, they’ve also played five and six more matches respectively.
The CPL has shown it can give goalkeepers opportunities to earn moves at high levels. In fact, his old teammate Niko Giantsopoulos even dressed for the Vancouver Whitecaps as an emergency loan last year, while Valour’s Matt Silva has tasted AFC Champions League and Europa Conference action. Ingham himself enjoyed a training stint with Liga MX side Atletico San Luis earlier this year, while last night’s opposition in Rayane Yesli trained with Ligue 1 side AC Ajaccio several months ago.
The open discussion about going to a higher level is a double-edged sword for Atletico Ottawa: it obviously wants to prove that it can help push players upwards, but the fifth-year CPL veteran would be a tough figure to replace. Second-string Sean Melvin has a few years under his belt, nabbing two clean sheets from seven appearances while Nate was sidelined this year.
After a tough patch for form earlier this season, it’s blossomed into a great summer for the side, with a turn of form seeing them rocket up the league rankings of late.
“I’m really enjoying my time in Ottawa,” Nate adds, assuaging concerns of any discontentment. “I can’t believe how much I’ve loved it, how much respect I have for the club as a whole, and how thankful I am for what they’ve given me.”
The Canadian Premier League has given Ingham the bulk of his professional appearances. He’s made 133 of them in all, with just 20% coming outside of Atletico Ottawa or York United.
The veteran goalkeeper has been quite vocal about how Major League Soccer had long-failed the interests of Canadian footballers, and while there’s been growth along that front, the CPL is dispensing a much higher rate of minutes – and he’s certainly made the best of them, earning a nomination for goalkeeper of the year last season.
“I think we just need more of that in Canada: we need deeper rosters, maybe more roster spots. That’ll give us the opportunity to battle and have that interchangeability between a younger guy trying to push into a starting roster and a guy who’s comfortable. We don’t want to see Canadian players comfortable in a professional league,” he adds.
While it’s clear Ingham has big ambitions, his day-to-day goals are kept simple: he wants to stay healthy for every match and training session, give himself the best opportunity to play every possible minute, and – as always – steal points from other teams.
“I think a good goalkeeper can get you 6-9 points, and a bad one lose you maybe 6-9 points. That’s a huge gap, and it’s a huge responsibility I put on myself as a goalkeeper. With bias, it’s the most important position on the pitch.”
Atletico Ottawa may have broken into the top half of the table, but the 2023 Canadian Premier League season is tight up there: ahead of the weekend, his club had risen up to fourth in league standings after going undefeated in eight games, placing them just four points from first but just two points from sixth. That’s a lot of parity, so any points Ingham can steal could pay out in big dividends.
It’s clear that interest in CPL athletes is growing as the league continues to prove itself: Woobens Pacius, Dan Nimick, Sean Young, and Matteo de Brienne have all earned MLS interest (among others), while last year saw several big exports to Europe, like current national team members Victor Loturi and Dominick Zator.
Right now, Ingham’s eyes are solely on the ball – but behind that lies a big question on the future. He’d signed on a two-year deal last year, so what happens after this season’s final whistle remains to be seen.
“It would take a lot to get me out of Ottawa, but I love a new challenge,” Ingham concludes. “So we’ll take it game-by-game and see what happens.”
Source: OneSoccer (via Twitter)
Header Image Photo Credit: Matt Zambonin / Freestyle Photography