Atlético Ottawa break Pacific FC Clean Sheet Run in West Coast Win

Atlético Ottawa break Pacific FC Clean Sheet Run in West Coast Win

Atlético Ottawa remain undefeated after their fourth win of the season, this time against Pacific FC. The Victoria team hosted the nation’s capital side at Starlight Stadium on Friday May 17th, in a game that ended in a 1-0 win for the visitors, and gave them a three-point lead at the top of the league table.

Ottawa capitalized on a difficult first-half for the home team, to take the first (and only) lead of the game. Pacific, missing Reon Moore in their lineup due to a previous red card, were also forced to exhaust all three substitution windows in the first 35 minutes because of multiple injuries.

Pacific started with a strong offensive salvo by stealing possession of the ball early, but Manny Aparicio quickly recovered, and a service from Rubén Del Campo to Ballou Tabla gave Ottawa their first chance at goal. Unfortunately, Tabla’s shot was deflected by Eric Lajeunesse before the referee stopped the play, due to an injured Aly Ndom. 

After a paused start as the physio team tended to the Pacific player, ATO threatened their opponent’s end, in the 14th minute, with an Ollie Bassett free kick won outside the box by Tabla, which forced Emil Gazdov off his line to parry the ball away from goal. Aparicio headed the loose ball towards the top of the 6-yard box, where Del Campo executed an overhead kick and lifted it above the crossbar.

Soon after, Pacific had the opportunity to open the scoring in the 18th minute when Steffen Yeates played a through ball to Dario Zanatta, who had weaved through the Atléti defensive line. On the edge of Ottawa’s penalty area, he delivered a low cross to Andrei Tîrcoveanu who laced the ball over the frame.

Atlético then pressed on and Tabla won a second free kick for the visitors in the 19th minute, which was subsequently taken by Maxim Tissot. Sean Young cleared it twice during this play and the ball eventually ended up with Kunle Dada-Luke who, chased down the touchline by Bassett, ran the ball down the flank before earning the first corner kick of the match. Zanatta picked up the deflection from Sissoko and he fed the ball to Tîrcoveanu; unfortunately, the Romanian midfielder fired the ball wide of the target.

In the 32nd minute, Pacific found themselves down a man because of an injury and Ottawa exploited the advantage. Tissot distributed into the attacking zone and Del Campo, beating Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, used the ball’s bounce to half-volley it into the far post, where it ricocheted into the net, giving ATO a 1-0 lead and breaking Gazdov’s run of clean sheets. This marked the Swiss native’s fourth goal in four games and put him in the lead for the CPL Golden Boot race, and up to six in all competitions.

Photo © CPL Photos

The nation’s capital team had one more chance in the first half when Bassett played Del Campo into the box. The attacker advanced the ball to Tabla at the top of the penalty area, but Yeates got his foot to the pass and redirected it. Bassett, jumping on the loose ball, unleashed a shot that landed wide of the near post.

On the other hand, the home team had two missed opportunities before the end of the first half; first, after a corner kick in the 45th minute, Pierre Lamothe collected the ball at the top of the penalty area and attempted to convert. However, Kris Twardek positioned his body in front of Meilleur-Giguère, blocking him from directing the ball into the goal, which was ultimately off the mark anyways. Then in the 49th minute, Tîrcoveanu skied a dangerously located free kick.

Atlético Ottawa had outshot Pacific seven to three by the break, and came close to extending their lead in the 51st minute – Tissot launched a long ball towards the frame and a miscommunication between Gazdov and Lajeunesse almost resulted in an own goal for Pacific. Fortunately for the home side, debut player Christian Greco-Taylor volleyed the ball off the goal line. However, Twardek regained possession and delivered a shot at net, but Greco-Taylor deflected it with his back, sending it high into the air –  where the keeper regained possession.

ATO also had a couple of close calls following this chance that were prevented by Yesli’s swift action. In the 54th minute, Yeates sent the ball upfield to Zanatta ahead of the Ottawa defenders, which required Yesli to run out of his box and head the ball to safety, before the offside flag was raised retroactively. Then, in the 60th minute, Zanatta met Dada-Luke’s cross with his head to send the ball to centre frame, where Yesli fell to his right to catch it mid-air.

In another near miss, Ottawa won a corner in the 64th minute that was on target to become another Bassett olimpico, but Gazdov punched the ball out of bounds. Bassett repeated the shot and this time Gazdoc parried it towards the top of the box, where Tîrcoveanu collected it before Alberto Zapater fouled him.

The red-and-white stripes saw two more possibilities before the end of the game to go up 2-0, including Matteo de Brienne’s high first-time shot in the 80th minute, and a pass from Samuel Salter to Bassett in the 89th minute, which prompted Gazdov to rush out to the edge of his box to deny a shot opportunity. Atlético otherwise held a defensive-style play to run out the clock.

Pacific, aiming to break Ottawa’s lead, saw a pass from Cédric Toussaint to Dada-Luke on the far right. He manoeuvered past Tissot and made an attempt from close to the byline towards the nearby goalpost, resulting in a straightforward stop for Yesli. Following this chance, they earned two set-pieces outside the penalty area in the 82nd and 90th minutes. Yeates took the first one, but Amer Didić prevented Zanatta from reaching it, and Lajeunesse was unable to keep it in play. For the second dead-ball, Lamothe took an effort on goal, but Yesli caught it mid-air as he leaped to his right.

In one final attempt to equalize that left fans holding their breath, Pacific’s Lamothe passed forward to a sprinting Zanatta; he snuck through Didić and shot from inside the box, in the 91st minute. Yesli managed to get his fingers to the ball, which drove it into the near post before landing behind the goalkeeper. Due to the ball’s spin, it didn’t roll and Yesli was able to turn his body and get on top of it before any damage could be done, securing Atlético Ottawa the win. 

Photo © CPL Photos

Both sides will face off once more on May 29th, in the second leg of the Canadian Championship quarterfinals. Going in with an aggregated score of 0-0, Ottawa will attempt to break through Pacific’s defence anew to fortify their spot in the semi-finals. In the meantime, Atlético Ottawa host Forge FC at TD Place, on May 25th at 3 pm. ATO have yet to play the four-time league title winners this season, who are sure to be itching to close the four point gap in the league standings.


C.D. Girard (she/her/elle) discovered Atlético Ottawa during their 2023 season and has been a loyal fan ever since. A long-time admirer of the sport, she first began playing football at the age of seven and most looks forward to international competitions where she supports both Canada and the Netherlands.

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