CCSG Player Ratings: Matchday 9 @ Valour FC

CCSG Player Ratings: Matchday 9 @ Valour FC

After an incredibly hectic performance against Halifax, the convincing nature of this result against Valour should bring a collective sigh of relief to the ATO fanbase. While the game didn’t start out as such, the team was able to grow into the proceedings quite well and took complete control in the second half - after halftime I never feared Valour going forward. The pace of the game was dictated entirely by some superb play down the left side, and a midfield that was not being challenged by their opposite numbers. The penalty may have been a fortunate decision for us, but we took advantage of the opportunity presented and made sure there would be no doubt as to who would take home the three points. It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means, but it does serve as a baseline for the rest of the season. This did not feel like an outlier like the 7-0 win did, or the 3-0 win against Forge. It may be harsh to expect this level in every remaining game, but we know now what a win should look like. On to the ratings:

#19 Ruben Del Campo

(6.7): Two games without a goal for Ruben Del Campo feels like an eon after his red-hot May. Luckily for Atlético Ottawa, Ruben’s play continues to be positive despite not getting on the score sheet, and his most important contribution was certainly the penalty he won early in the second half. Outside of that, he mustered a couple of shots that were blocked by a persistent Valour back line, and connected reasonably well with the midfield in the second half prior to his substitution. It was unfortunate that the one pass he didn’t complete in this game was the most likely to create a chance, as he under hit a ball down the right wing to a surging Ballou Tabla who would have received it behind the Valour defence. Additionally, he was not quite on his game in terms of aerial duels, losing five of six to the Valour centre backs. Admittedly, the physicality of Chantzopoulous and Mourdoukoutas would make it difficult for most strikers to do so, but Ruben has shown good aerial ability in the past and did well against this back line earlier in the season. All in all, though, nothing to complain about, and nothing to suggest his role in the team is going to change any time soon.

#9 Samuel Salter

(NR): Two goals in three games for Sam Salter is a wonderful sight to see after having a, frankly, putrid start to the season. Making an impact in limited minutes is the way for a striker to earn greater trust from the manager and the fanbase, and hopefully he can turn these impactful short bursts into full performances, something which he hasn’t been able to thus far. Having a hungry striker who can score sitting behind Ruben is the best motivation to keep both of our centre forwards playing at their best week in and week out. 

#11 Gabriel Antinoro 

(7): A common thread that will run through many of these justifications is redemption. Many of last week’s starters turned in subpar performances, and Gabi Antinoro was the biggest such example in attack. This week however, he came in and redeemed himself with a performance that was far closer to the standard he has set this year. He worked very well with Matteo de Brienne down the left side, causing problems for a veteran defender in Roberto Alarcón in attack, and was able to track back defensively and limit Abdou Binate to essentially no impact offensively. While he didn’t end up having any truly decisive moments going forward, that isn’t something I want to critique. The only real downside to his attacking performance was that he didn’t complete any of his three dribbles. For a left winger that can be as dynamic as he’s shown, you want to see that particular area improve, so he can create opportunities for himself without the need for constant service. Still, with a positive win rate in ground duels, and having won three free kicks while not conceding any, Gabi is back to where he should be.

#13 Ballou Tabla 

(6.9): Ballou Tabla has not been the game breaker we assumed he would be immediately. He may still realize the image that the fanbase has painted of him, but I think it’s time we realize the expectations may be a bit too high. Yes, he has played poorly this season, but even in games where he has been a positive force there has been some undue criticism directed his way because of those heightened expectations. Today was a fine performance from Ballou, particularly down the right in the first half. That he managed to complete three of four dribbles shows he’s still able to take defenders on and create from limited spaces. His chance early in the second half was thwarted by a great recovery from the Valour defenders, and even if I would have preferred him to have lashed at it first time with his right foot, he is still getting into dangerous positions week after week. Yes, I’d love for him to score at every turn, and naturally, I think we’d all be ecstatic if he was on four goals at this point in the season instead of two. But the thing is, we don’t need him to be. We’ve already managed nine goals from our strikers this season, the exact same total we had all of last year. He doesn’t need to carry the goal scoring load, and we need to stop thrusting that expectation onto him. If he continues to create chances the goals will come. I’ll stop saying that at some point this year, surely, for better or for worse.

#8 Dani Morer

(6.7): That I feel like this game was the weakest Dani Morer has played in an ATO shirt should say something. He managed to, in 23 minutes, complete 18 of 19 passes, win a ground duel, and complete a successful dribble. Normally, I would be raving about a substitute that did these things while being shifted around the pitch and not doing anything to compromise the team. This is the standard he has set for me this season through his play. It’s not a Ballou situation where the expectations are being created based on what we had before, but instead what is being done now. I’m still hoping to see him start in the coming weeks but given there might still be a slight concern from the knock he picked up against Pacific, I am still perfectly content with his contributions as someone who can be relied upon to close out games by any means necessary.

Photo © CPL Photos

#10 Ollie Bassett

(7.6): Ollie Bassett’s calm approach to penalties has made me, someone perpetually plagued by fear that whatever can go wrong will go wrong, confident that he will convert every time he steps to the spot. That he’s only missed one penalty in the Canadian Premier League is evidence that this confidence is not misplaced. Of course, Ollie’s performance was more than just the spot kick, as his ability to play progressively was on full display in this game. Four key passes, 92% pass accuracy, and nine passes into the final third are more than enough to supplement his second goal in as many games. There’s still the looming concern over his ability to get dangerous balls into the box from corners, with only two of the eight he took posing a serious threat to Viscosi and the Valour defense, but this is a known thing. His proficiency from set pieces in other areas of the field, and his ability on the ball in general, more than make up for this. This type of game is perfect for Ollie because he didn’t have to try and get into a constant battle in midfield, he had space to work, and work he did.

#34 Manny Aparicio 

(7.1): At a certain point, it becomes difficult to write about a player because I feel like I’m saying the same things week after week. Manny Aparicio’s season thus far has epitomized this feeling. Maybe you can point to the early fouls that he picked up in this game as a sign he wasn’t on his game but given he didn’t commit one after Mathieu Souaré gave him a warning at the end of the first half, it’s not really that much of an issue. You could also point to the three of ten success rate in duels against a weaker than average Valour midfield, but the seven defensive actions otherwise and the 11 passes into the final third more than make up for that. Ultimately, Manny’s style of play means he’s going to be in the thick of whatever is happening every single match. He is now the engine of the midfield in so many different ways, and that he can pick out a shot like the one he had in the second half from 30+ yards away is the special quality that elevates him even further.

Photo © CPL Photos

#21 Alberto Zapater

(7): It would be unreasonable for anyone to expect their defensive midfielder to score every week. As such, Zapater continues to impress, to no one’s surprise. 92% pass accuracy with seven defensive actions and five of seven success rate in duels feels like just another day at the office for the 38-year-old. His positioning in the centre circle, for as much as the uneducated love to try and poke fun, is essential to the spine of this team remaining stable when in possession. Out of possession, though, he’s everywhere, trying to disrupt attacks in whichever way he possibly can. His ability is unquestionable, and his leadership will hopefully find it’s way to the other members of this team whenever he decides to step away from the game. 

#33 Abou Sissoko 

(NR): The brief spell of Abou Sissoko in this match featured a lovely little one-two with Sam Salter to set up the insurance marker, and frankly little else. Sissoko has featured far more prominently in every other match this season, and so to see him come into the game so late is certainly intriguing. It likely comes down to Carlos being comfortable with the XI that were on the pitch in the second half, and it stands to reason why he wouldn’t make a change for change’s sake.

#6 Liberman Torres

(NR): A week after being thrust into centre back to replace Tyr Walker, something Carlos Gonzalez admitted wouldn’t be the primary role for him through the rest of the season, Liberman Torres got a few minutes in midfield to see out the remainder of the game. There was nothing really of note about his performance, but to see him out there at all is good news for the overall depth in the midfield in case of the dreaded injury bug.

#22 Matteo de Brienne

(8): Matteo was a man possessed in his return to Winnipeg. He was ever present down the left side of the pitch and gave every Valour player fits if they dared to come close to him. It’s unfortunate he wasn’t rewarded with a goal from his fabulous strike from the top of the box in the 31st minute, as that would have been the cap on a perfect return. He won all four of his tackles and made six other defensive actions, winning more than half of his duels as well, with two chances created - there are just too many numbers to point to from Matteo on Sunday to say anything else. This isn’t a case of empty numbers either. Anyone who watched saw how impactful he was down the left, working so well with Gabi Antinoro and also being able to come into the middle when he needed. The only thing I’m even remotely concerned about is that Matteo picked up his fourth yellow of the season, which means he’s one away from suspension, and I’m not quite sure what the plan is behind Matteo at left back if he were to miss a game. 

#5 Luke Singh

(7.2): When Luke misplayed three passes directly into the feet of Valour attackers within the first ten minutes of the game, I feared for the worst. The next 80 minutes dispelled any notion of that. As I mentioned last week, Didic returning would bring comfort to the back line, and Luke was extremely comfortable manning the back line. Six duels won with only one lost, five defensive actions, and two successful tackles show that from the number’s standpoint. Based on the eye test, it looked back to normal as well - he wasn’t letting anyone get in behind. Even when Valour had a bit of possession early on he wasn’t being out matched for pace or strength in any aspect, and positioned himself well throughout the game. Having Ingham behind him also helped on a couple occasions, the most notable being the instance he ducked out of the way of a ball at the top of the 18 that Ingham came to collect. With the veterans around him, Luke is a hell of a defender, and given he’s only 22, there’s plenty of time for him to learn those leadership skills from his veteran teammates. 

#55 Amer Didic

(7.1): After a week off to handle a knock he picked up in the Canadian Championship against Pacific, Amer Didic returned to his place in the lineup with no concerns. Didic made a couple of key interventions when Valour was progressing the ball into dangerous areas, preventing chances from even occurring, the most notable of which was a tackle at the top of the 18-yard box as Valour was carrying the ball through the ATO midfield. That said, statistically, Didic did dip a little from his usual performances; he did not win a single aerial duel, nor did he maintain his stellar pass accuracy averages, dipping closer to 80%. However, these aren’t causes for concern. The stability he provides at the back is clear for everyone to see especially in comparison to last week. It’s clear in the contrast between these two games that he is the most important piece to the defense, and here’s hoping that knock doesn’t have long lasting effects.

#23 Kris Twardek

(6.8): I’ll admit, I don’t have too much to say about Kris Twardek in this game. It was another effective day for the right back, providing good defensive coverage and connecting well up the field with Ollie Bassett and Ballou Tabla. The one thing I will commend him for is that this marks his fifth consecutive game without a yellow card, thereby removing the threat of suspension the next time he gets one. Given he was shown a yellow in each of the first four games of the season, this is fantastic news especially as we grow into the year and move towards possible multiple game suspensions for accumulation. With the right back situation behind him not entirely certain, Twardek not being available will cause concern as he’s played essentially every minute of the season thus far.

Photo © CPL Photos

#29 Nathan Ingham

(7): After weeks of uncertainty regarding his injury status, Atlético Ottawa’s most capped keeper returned to his place between the posts on Sunday and was rewarded with a steady defensive performance and a clean sheet. Nothing from Valour was particularly threatening, and Nate did not seem too bothered at any point by the opposing attack. Even in the first 15-20 minutes where Valour looked the better side, the chances that were generated were half chances at best. This now marks the third clean sheet in the last four CPL games for Atlético Ottawa. That we can accomplish that with either of our goalkeepers on the pitch is a wonderful sight to behold.

Nine unbeaten to start the season is unbelievable - it took us 15 games last season to accumulate the same number of points we presently have. +11 goal difference in a league where the second best is plus three is a gap that even the most optimistic ATO fan would have felt ridiculous thinking possible at the beginning of the year. These are all great numbers, but there is still so much season to be played. We cannot get ahead of ourselves, and looking at everything with a critical eye is vital to continuing the run we’ve been on. That said, there wasn’t a ton to be critical about this performance, and it’s lovely to be able to write this without having to come away with any sinking feelings in your stomach.

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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