2024 CCSG Player Rankings: Voyageur's Cup Quarter-Final (Leg 1) vs. Pacific FC

2024 CCSG Player Rankings: Voyageur's Cup Quarter-Final (Leg 1) vs. Pacific FC

Any reasonable person expected this result. Pacific have been impossible to break down all season, while not being the most threatening attack, while ATO have only played one game against a truly adept and organized defensive unit. Combine that with this being each team’s 3rd game in a week, and tired legs were never really going to generate much of anything. On the balance a 0-0 feels like an advantage for ATO given that the away goals rule still decides who advances in the tournament, meaning Pacific will have to score 2 if ATO is to manage just one goal at Starlight stadium on the 29th. Given one could reasonably make the argument that this game did not actually occur, I’m going to try something different with the player ratings this midweek - mostly because I don’t have a ton to say about most of the players that took the field on Wednesday.

A football team schedule on a green field

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The Good

#55 Amer Didic

(7.5): If you told me Amer Didic had a magnet installed in his forehead that only attracted soccer balls, I’d believe you. Another 6 headed clearances in this match makes up just the tip of the iceberg for how Didic was in command of the back line on Wednesday. Only once was Pacific able to direct a shot on goal, and that was marshalled simply into the arms of Rayane Yesli. On the attacking side, with Pacific content to sit back and absorb pressure, Didic was offered eons of time on the ball and as such made 128 passes on the night. Unfortunately, he was only able to connect on 33% of his 24 attempted long balls, and after a certain point in the first half, started to become a tad predictable in how he tried to break through the staunch Pacific defensive set-up. Still, 23 passes into the final third from a centre-back is nothing to sneeze at, as it demonstrates a set-up that is trying to be cutting with all its attacking talent. Given his defensive prowess, there is a safety that we feel even if our fullbacks are bombing forward. Didic was the signing I most wanted to come to fruition, and now that he has shown he can continue being who he was at Pacific, regardless of who was beside him, I have all the confidence in the world that our defence can continue the tradition it has established.

#8 Dani Morer

(7.2): I had assumed Dani Morer’s role on this team would be to supplement Kris Twardek at right back. I was wrong. Boy, am I glad I was, because the loanee from Famalicão shone as the main outlet for much of his 60 minutes on the pitch on Wednesday. Trying to attack a perceived lack of pace from Pacific left back and Ottawa native Eric Lajeunesse, Morer was often the target of long balls from the two centre-backs as he raced down the wing. More than that, his interplay with Kris Twardek and Ollie Bassett demonstrated his creativity, including one sequence with Ollie where he played a one-two, then pulled a drag back to create space only for the half chance to be wasted at the top of the box. Morer was also able to draw the foul that led to Atlético Ottawa’s best chance of the game, the Tissot shot that deflected off the crossbar. Combine these attributes with an 83% success rate in duels, and you get the type of player we would hope will be featuring throughout the season.

#33 Abou Sissoko 

(7): Sliding into the pivot in place of Alberto Zapater is going to come with increased expectations. Sissoko met them on Wednesday. He was able to slide back between the centre backs and command from the very back line while also stepping up and weaving through the midfield with Ollie Bassett and Manny Aparicio. Sissoko’s biggest contribution defensively was that he won 6 of 8 duels, an important thing for the defensive midfielder to do given that Pacific was set up to try and hit on the counterattack. Importantly, going forward, Sissoko looked comfortable on the ball when given space to carry, something that I hadn’t been entirely sold on through the first few games of the season. If he can keep his pass accuracy above 80%, make key passes, and continue to be a defensive force, there’s plenty of optimism for when Zapater is not included in a starting XI. He may have wished to be playing further up the pitch, when possible, but his performances suggest he’ll be just as effective sitting deep in the middle of the park.  

Photo © Phil Larivière

The Bad

#9 Samuel Salter

(5.8): Too often on Wednesday, Sam Salter looked a step behind everyone else on the pitch. Rather than trying to take the game by the scruff of the neck, he seemed like he was waiting for the game to come to him. Given the way the team was playing around him, he stuck out like a sore thumb when the attack was trying to be fluid. He didn’t make ambitious runs into the box when the players on one side would get by their defender, and when he received the ball at his feet, the ball was more often than not being controlled far too heavily. This led to ATO needing to recycle the ball or win the ball back from Pacific who had taken control. Even when given the ball in the 18-yard box, Salter tried to play the more intricate ball with Manny Aparicio running behind him rather than take the shot from the edge of the 6 on his strong foot. He did get into the box in this game, and did manage a shot early, but to say he did much with his opportunity to try and wrestle the regular starting spot from Ruben Del Campo would be incorrect. You either must be scoring goals or providing something in the build-up to get playing time; you can’t do neither.

#13 Ballou Tabla 

(6): It really does disappoint me to say this, but the second Ballou Tabla was brought into the match, I had a strong feeling we weren’t going to score. Something about him has seemed off through the early stages of this season. It still seems like he’s trying to ramp up to full speed, and there are certainly glimpses of his talent, but by and large he’s been disappointing, particularly in front of goal. The issues with scoring were something that did pop up in 2022, but he didn’t feel disconnected from the rest of the team in the same way that he has at times in the first month of the 2024 season. I have more faith in his ability to work back to his previous level than some others in the lineup, but he will need to put in the work. He’s not beating people for pace like he once had the ability to, and he’s still trying to flesh out how he can work with his midfield (other than Ollie with whom the chemistry is still quite potent). This might just be an example of heightened expectations not letting me see the clearest picture of his season thus far, which I think is good news for him to be able to turn it around.

Photo © Phil Larivière

The Hmmmmmm

#21 Alberto Zapater

(6.5): It’s becoming clearer that Alberto Zapater has to start the game to be truly his most effective self. On a couple of occasions when he was brought onto the pitch, he was caught flat-footed by the Pacific midfield. Being able to work into the game alongside the rest of the team seems best to avoid those types of situations, but he also can’t start every week, especially when ATO is playing as often as they are due to their success. It’s a tough balancing act, but in the spine of the team the balance must be struck properly. With Sissoko solidifying himself as the viable option at the position we had assumed he would be, being able to rotate Zapater out earlier in the second half when he starts is certainly more likely to produce positive results. This isn’t a comment on his performance, but more so the reality of having a 38-year-old being an integral part of this team. 

#5 Luke Singh

(7.2): Before I say anything else, Luke’s performance as a defender is getting back to the level that we wanted it to be. He had a couple of shaky games to start, but he’s starting to settle next to Didic when the team is organized and becoming a wonderful secondary piece. Even on the ball, he’s been able to get back to placing accurate long balls when he’s nestled at the halfway line in possession. My one issue is that he still has these moments where he doesn’t gauge the space and time he has properly and creates giveaways that put the opposing team in a dangerous attacking position. It’s not that I don’t want him to roam forward, because he has the ability to make a difference with a switch or a powerful shot from distance, but he can’t be doing that if the team is relying on him as one of two defensive options with how attacking our fullbacks have been through the start of this season. Staying in the pocket is the best thing for this team because opponents are starting to look to give Luke the chance to make these types of mistakes. He cuts those out, and this defence is going to be a force. 

Photo © Phil Larivière

There’s a lot to take away from this game, particularly about how we can further evolve to try and break down the steadfast 4-4-2 that Pacific play. We’ll also have another shot at it before the return leg on May 29th, as we will be at Starlight for our 6th league match of the season on the 17th. It’s going to be difficult to get by Thomas Meilleur-Giguère and Aly Ndom, who has slid in perfectly to fill the void left by Amer Didic, but I have faith that the team can figure it out by the time they get to Starlight. Whether that’s in the league or in the cup, we’ll have to find out. All I know is I desperately want to play an MLS team. Seems like everyone else has had that chance, now it’s our turn.

About Patrick

Having joined CCSG in 2022, Patrick started his footie career playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros around the same time. While the first pro team he supported was Manchester United, as soon as Atlético Ottawa came to town, he was immediately on board. His wealth of footy knowledge has been a constant asset, along with his role as caretaker for Atléti Wikipedia pages.

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