Atlético Ottawa with Back-to-Back Wins over Valour FC

Atlético Ottawa with Back-to-Back Wins over Valour FC

After a thrilling preliminary round of the TELUS Canadian Championship, where Atlético Ottawa set a new record by defeating Valour FC 7-0 on Wednesday night, the two teams faced off in a much-anticipated rematch at TD Place on Sunday, May 5th, where the nation’s capital emerged victorious once again.

With only four days between games, head coach Carlos González made a few changes to his formation and starting eleven, opting for a 4-5-1 configuration on Sunday. He brought in Gabriel Antinoro, Aboubacar Sissoko, and Nathan Ingham in place of Ollie Bassett, Maxim Tissot, and Rayane Yesli. The players adjusted well, beating Valour 2-0 in front of 3,886 fans and moving up to the top of the league table.

Photo © Freestyle Photography

The away team kicked off the match and made an early mistake that almost resulted in a goal. In the 8th minute, Themi Antonoglou directed the ball back towards his goalkeeper using his head, but he failed to see Kris Twardek coming up on his right. Jonathan Viscosi was forced to sprint out of his goal and punch the ball down and away from the Atléti player. The error led to a frantic play in the visitor’s end that saw Matteo de Brienne take a shot that was ultimately deflected by a defender. After a few more hectic passes, Ballou Tabla found himself offside, and the play ended.

Ottawa capitalized on this momentum to secure the first goal of the game, which came early in the 19th minute after Noah Verhoeven fouled Aboubacar Sissoko and awarded Atléti a free kick about halfway to the half-line. De Brienne went for a long ball into the box and, in an effort to clear it, Valour’s Abdul Binate headed the ball to the feet of an unguarded Rubén Del Campo. The Gatorade Performance of the Match recipient sent the ball to the far post, where it rolled past a diving Viscosi and into the net, giving Atlético the lead at 1-0.

The home team had a couple more opportunities from free kicks early in the game that were cleared away. In the 11th minute, Luke Singh took a shot that was deflected by the wall, resulting in an easy catch for Viscosi. Then, in the 31st minute, de Brienne took another kick, but it was deflected and sent out for a corner.

Another close call came in the 22nd minute when de Brienne ran the ball up to the byline and crossed into Winnipeg’s box. The ball was perfectly placed for Del Campo to get his head to it, but Gianfranco Facchineri was on it quicker and headed it away. His teammate Jordan Faria got his foot to it and accidentally passed back to Ottawa opponent Twardek who fired a shot on target, which was saved by Viscosi.

Looking to increase the lead after his last shot was saved, Twardek’s throw-in to Manny Aparicio was quickly passed right back, where he crossed it to the center of the 10-yard line for Gabriel Antinoro, who took one touch before marking the moment of the match, when his ball hit the post and rolled into Viscosi’s net, for a two-goal lead.

Photo © Freestyle Photography

The last shots before half-time were all in favour of the visitors, who failed to change the score. First, in the 38th minute, Faria sprinted into Ottawa’s box to meet a pass from Antonoglou; he took the shot, which ricocheted off defender Amer Didić and was sent high for a leaping Nathan Ingham to catch. Four minutes later, de Brienne came in late on Danté Campbell and granted Winnipeg a free kick outside the penalty area. Antonoglou shot for the back post, hoping the cross would meet his teammate, but Didić got his body in front of Charalampos Chantzopoulos stopping him from making contact before the ball rolled out of play. Finally, Verhoeven took a shot from outside the penalty arc and skied it above the crossbar.

The home team kicked off what was a much slower second half that saw no notable action until the 65th minute when Verhoeven switched the side of play by sending the ball to Antonoglou, who took a shot from outside the 18-yard line. In Ottawa’s end, De Brienne shielded Binate long enough to prevent him from getting on the other end of the cross and allowing Ingham the room to jump and make the catch. The Atléti goalkeeper made a similar save in the 69th minute, getting his hands to Campbell’s ball that entered into the 6-yard box occupied by Ottawa players.

Valour seemed to have the upper hand in this second half getting another opportunity in the 72nd minute when Shaan Hundal shot from outside the box, which Ingham caught in the chest, marking the first shot on target for this half and awarding him the save of the match. However, Allstate Nate was called upon once more before the final whistle when Hundal passed to Faria inside the box, who brought it into the 6-yard box and took a shot in the 82nd minute. Ingham dove and got his fingertips to the ball, clearing it to pass across the frame before Tissot cleared the ball. Only a minute later, Ingham jumped to clear a shot from Faria over the crossbar marking the last opportunity for the visitors and securing Ingham his first clean sheet of the campaign and the 30th in his Canadian Premier League career.

ATO was gifted one last chance in the 85th minute when they won a corner and Bassett sent it in towards the frame, but it was punched away by Darlington Murasiranwa, who came in for an injured Viscosi in the 36th minute.

While a slower game than Wednesday’s match both teams saw plenty of chances with Ottawa out-shooting Winnipeg 10 to 7. There is still work to do, as some similar errors continue to plague the team including issues with form near the end of the match, which sees the opposing team getting ample shots in the home team’s end and many pass turnovers. Nevertheless, Atlético continues to push and perform effectively to bring home points, which wouldn’t be possible without our backline. This is why my stand out of the match goes to defender Amer Didić; he has been an integral part of the Ottawa backline since the season began and he continues to perform well each game. I found him to be calm and poised on the ball Sunday and deserving of some claim to the clean sheet. He continues to have exceptional pass accuracy and incredible defensive actions especially in the air; he gets under the ball effectively and made several clearances including one on a Valour corner in the 83rd minute. It’s not hard to see why the supporters have nicknamed him the “Iron Giant''.

Photo © Freestyle Photography

I’ve also been keeping a close eye on Aboubacar Sissoko, as I know it’s a matter of time before we see him flourish in the midfield. I think he still has some work to do, but it’s worth noting that he won a fair few duels, had good passing, a couple of interceptions and travelled well on the field. He even had a chance at an assist when he slipped the ball through Winnipeg’s defenders to an unguarded Salter, in the perfect position to shoot, but who was unfortunately offside. Sissoko has flown under the radar, but I suspect that won’t be the case for much longer.

Atlético play once more at home against Pacific FC in the first of two matches for the Quarterfinals of the TELUS Canadian Championship, on May 8th at 7 pm. Pacific managed to scrap a win over League 1 TSS Rovers through a penalty shootout on May 1st securing their spot in the second round of the tournament. This will be the first time Ottawa and Pacific face off this season and both teams are currently tied in the league table on points and goal difference, with Atléti leading on goals for. 


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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