CCSG Player Ratings: Matchday 8 vs. Halifax Wanderers

CCSG Player Ratings: Matchday 8 vs. Halifax Wanderers

What? No, seriously, what? For about 70-75 minutes of this game, Atlético Ottawa had no business sniffing a result. The backline looked disjointed without the experience of Amer Didic or Maxim Tissot. Meanwhile, the attack bore close to impotence with the only shots at Yann Filion being headers weakly directed towards. Yet, here we sit, still undefeated after a 101’ minute equalizer from the ageless wonder that is Alberto Zapater. Atlético Ottawa should count their lucky stars that Ryan Telfer was unable to convert a number of significant chances in the first half, after he found himself through on goal after dribbling past both Luke Singh and Tyr Walker on separate occasions. That said, the final 5 or so minutes of the first half, and the final 20 or so minutes of the game, given the 10+ minutes of added time, were more emblematic of the Atlético Ottawa side we’ve seen at the high points of this season. As disastrous as most of Sunday felt, there’s still some positives to take from the game, which felt unthinkable when Tiago Coimbra scored his 2nd in the 75th minute. On to the ratings!

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#9 Samuel Salter

(5.9): Given the chance to provide real competition for Ruben Del Campo with his first start since playing Cavalry on matchday 2, Salter did not take the bull by the horns. While he was able to get one half chance on a cross from Kris Twardek early in the first half, this was the only threat he posed to the Halifax goal at any point on Saturday. Further, his problems in build up play continued, as his propensity for heavy touches made it so he was dispossessed twice despite only having 10 touches in his 45 minutes on the pitch. What makes Salter’s presence on the field so frustrating is that he has not shown the ability to connect with the rest of the team. As such, he only managed to register 4 passes in an entire half, albeit Halifax did manage the lion’s share of possession while he was on the pitch. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if your striker isn’t putting the ball in the back of the net, they need to be able to provide something else on the pitch. Sam Salter is presently doing neither, and I’m hoping I’m wrong, but it seems like he won’t ever retake the starting role from Ruben.

#19 Ruben Del Campo

(6.2): I said last week that streaks were meant to be broken, and unfortunately for Atlético Ottawa, Ruben Del Campo’s streak of league matches with a goal has stopped at 5. Coming in at half-time, Ruben didn’t quite live up to the level that he had been over the last few weeks. His passing was nowhere near as crisp, only 33%, but he also wasn’t getting into the same positions that he had been in the last couple of weeks to find himself goals. Bar one fairly audacious bicycle kick attempt in the 72nd minute, he didn’t look the threat to score that he had been in the rest of May. Now, he still did provide in little ways otherwise. Ruben continuing his run to open up space for the cutback on the first ATO goal was exactly what a striker should be doing in that situation. Additionally, his fight to win the ball back in the corner a few minutes prior before just misplacing a pass to Ballou Tabla on the edge of the six-yard box was the first time in the second half that it felt like Atlético had a real chance at grabbing something back in this game. Ruben’s performances so far make a sub-par performance like this more palatable. Hopefully, a bounce back is in the cards against Valour.

#11 Gabriel Antinoro 

(5.9): Much like the first home game against Halifax last season, Sunday was not Gabi’s best day on the pitch, being substituted at half-time after being largely ineffective in the first half. While he did maintain good defensive responsibility, making two interceptions and keeping an eye on a threatening Zach Fernandez, his contributions going forward were essentially null. He was unable to get into dangerous positions to receive passes and also wasn’t able to beat his opposite number off the dribble. The energy that Gabi usually brings to the pitch was still on display, but the fact that he didn’t win a single one of his 4 duels meant that the energy did not manifest itself positively. Part of me thinks that Gabi being a tad more central in this game was one cause for the limited impact he had on the game, and that with his skillset, he’s far more effective when placed on the left wing. The issue with that is Ballou Tabla looked his most effective when placed on the left in the second half, and if that is the way forward, the ability for Gabi to start, and accumulate u21 minutes, will likely be hampered. 

#13 Ballou Tabla 

(6.8): There’s still frustration with Ballou Tabla on my end, don’t get me wrong, but when he ventured out to the left in the first half, and then played there through most of the second half, he started to look like the Ballou Tabla of old. Sure, I’m probably most frustrated by him trying to cut back inside on his chance in the 56th minute and not trying to take the shot with his left, but the fact he was in that position to begin with is a great sign for the future of this team. I’ve spent a lot of time this season trying to weigh the idea of being in the right place with the results that Ballou has produced. That balance was struck more today than it has been in recent weeks, as he managed to find the assist on the opening goal for ATO. I would love to see Ballou start putting the ball in the back of the net with more regularity, but being able to set up his teammates is a pretty wonderful consolation.

Photo © Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography

#8 Dani Morer

(7.2): I have reached the conclusion that Dani Morer is the most technically gifted player on this team. The teachings of La Masia are obvious in every movement he makes on the pitch and should be evident to everyone given his comfort with the ball at his feet. Normally, I wouldn’t be giving Dani a rating, given he came in after minute 75, but I want to eschew my usual standards to continue to heap praise on a player who still feels unsung, mostly because of the limited playing time he’s garnered since coming to the club on loan. Much of this rating does come from his wonderful cross that found the head of Alberto Zapater in the 101st minute, but given he continues to produce at the level he has in the few minutes he’s been on the pitch, it’s only a matter of time before he starts regularly.

#10 Ollie Bassett

(7.8): Given how little I thought of the performance as a whole, revisiting the game really highlights how good Ollie Bassett was on Sunday. With 6 shots, and none technically being off target given that 4 of them were blocked, Ollie was the most threatening player for Atlético Ottawa by a good margin. While he probably should have scored in the 81st, he came right back down the pitch in the 84th and managed to score his first league goal of the season. It was a spectacular finish given he took it first time and was able to put it in a spot that Yann Fillion could never reach. However, what really cements Ollie’s rating this week is his much-improved defensive work. He won both of his tackles and managed to go 6 of 7 on duels, something that has not been present in his game consistently. Odds are he won’t replicate those particular numbers week to week, but in a game like this, where everyone around him was unable to really generate much of anything, Ollie served as the catalyst for a hard-fought, and perhaps fortunate, point.

#34 Manny Aparicio 

(6.9): Perhaps this is a result of playing as much as he has in these first two months, but Manny wasn’t his usual self on Sunday. The energetic and involved Manny that we’ve seen in the first quarter of the league season wasn’t on full display, and this is reflected in his stats, as he only contested two duels and did not register a single tackle. Offensively, he was still fairly involved, attempting 47 passes, and registering 61 touches, but again he didn’t execute to the same level, with less than 80% completion and only one registered shot on target which, while impressive given the elevation it took to win that particular header, fell harmlessly into the arms of Yann Fillion. Still, he did manage to create 3 chances, the biggest of which was the through ball to set Ballou forward prior to ATO’s first goal of the game, and that shows he’s able to have a positive impact even when he’s not playing his absolute best. Getting back to the level of defensive actions that he has had in weeks previous feels like a necessity to getting ATO back on track, as Manny’s ability to win the ball up the pitch has created a fair number of chances, and a couple of goals too. For my money, Manny is the signing of the season, just as everyone had assumed he would be in the offseason. The great news for us is that he’s going to keep showing that for the rest of the year.

#33 Abou Sissoko 

(6.4): For the second straight league game, Abou Sissoko registered 100% pass accuracy. Now that feels slightly disingenuous given one pass was very poorly directed at Ollie Bassett and was immediately given away, though because Ollie made contact it did count as a completed pass. Of course, that’s all semantics and doesn’t speak to his performance as a whole. Because he was situated as the defensive midfielder for his time on the pitch, he wasn’t really tasked with having to impact the game much offensively. His only real contributions on that front were winning two free kicks. He also didn’t really have any impact defensively either. He lost a majority of his duels, and his only defensive actions were a couple of headed clearances on corner kicks. Plus there were a couple of instances where he was caught a tad too far up the pitch and allowed HFX players to operate in plenty of space between the midfield and defensive lines. Ultimately, you do want to see more from a defensive midfielder in terms of disrupting play, especially if they aren’t looking to function as a deep-lying playmaker.

Photo © Philippe Larivière

#21 Alberto Zapater

(7.3): You mess with the bull; you get the horns. Halifax’s incessant attempts at time-wasting through much of the second half were welcomed with the comeuppance that so often does not befall teams that employ such tactics, us included, via the now prolific cranium of Alberto Zapater. No one on this planet would have assumed Zapa would sit second on the team in goals at any point in the season, let alone with 4 to his name, but boy is it great to see. This goal of course being the most satisfying, given what led up to it. Even without the goal, his performance on Sunday demonstrated his class and assuaged any concern I ever had about him needing to work his way into games when being substituted. 34/40 accurate passes with 2 interceptions and a 100% dual win rate only add to his late equalizer as reasons to heap praise on the soon-to-be 39-year-old. His veteran presence is so key to bridging the gap between midfield and defence, and even more so early in the second half as it looked to calm the two young centre-backs playing behind him. There is a youthful exuberance for the game that Alberto demonstrates along with being a vital piece of the leadership puzzle for ATO, and it’s beautiful to watch the blend it brings to the pitch.

#22 Matteo de Brienne

(6.9): After I thought Matteo was subpar on Wednesday, he returned to his usual self on Sunday. Ever energetic defensively, he did all he could to stop a fairly threatening Halifax right side from adding more fuel to the fire in the first half, and that he was only a step away from cutting out the first Halifax goal demonstrates the work ethic he brings to every match he plays. However, it was far more than just effort, as he also managed to win 8 of 13 duels, 7 of 10 on-ground duels most importantly, and provided a better option going forward. That he picked up a yellow for the handball offense he committed in 2nd half-injury time feels a tad harsh given that sort of handball has not been given as a card in plenty of other leagues around the world, but it’s something you’ll live with rather than conceding another opportunity on the counter. My one larger point to emphasize about Matteo’s game is specifically about when he’s on the ball. A number of his giveaways this season have come from what I’m observing as him playing just a tad too quickly. It always comes in sequences where Matteo makes the right decision, it’s just that he can’t quite reach the ball as a result of a slightly heavy touch or something along those lines. It’s easily correctable, especially for someone so young, and I can’t wait to see Matteo’s further growth, given how impactful he already is defensively.

#5 Luke Singh

(5.9): Perhaps this rating comes across as the whiplash from good performances over the last few weeks, but it also makes me realize that Luke Singh can’t be the number one centre-back for this team. Ryan Telfer undressed Luke Singh much like he did Tyr Walker on Sunday, and was unable to convert on either opportunity, but it’s more than just the individual moments like that which give me pause. I think Luke’s ability to communicate still needs to grow significantly, as there was plenty of disorganization in the backline throughout the first half. It’s not like there aren’t any positives to take from Luke’s performance; he still distributed well from defense to attack with 11 passes into the final third and 7 of 13 completed long balls. That said, it’s hard to look positively on the performance when he only won one duel and didn’t register a single tackle in the game, with only 4 defensive actions in a match where Halifax had a number of big chances. Given what I’ve seen over the last few weeks, I believe this will be an aberration if Amer Didic is to return. If not, Luke will have to grow quickly to fill the role that he’ll need to.

Photo © Philippe Larivière

#4 Tyr Walker

(6.4): I might get some stick for this from all of you I watched this game with, especially given my comments during the match itself, but I don’t think Tyr was as bad as we all may have thought in the moment. Upon further reflection, and with a bit of emotional distance from him being nutmegged by Ryan Telfer of all people 10 minutes into the game, he was fine, and that’s exactly what you would expect a 20-year-old centre-back to be without a true veteran presence alongside him. We need to remember that he was very heavily protected in a back three last seasons, and this being his first start in a back 4 showed why that was a necessary adjustment. I’ve already mentioned him getting absolutely done by Ryan Telfer early on, but I also do need to point out what I believe to be the key reason for the first Halifax goal. He was caught in two minds between Telfer and Wesley Timoteo carrying the ball up the pitch, and as such gave both of them too much room to execute the 1-2 that allowed Timoteo to play the ball to Ferrazzo. Outside of those moments, though, I don’t think there was anything too egregious. Sure he wasn’t spectacular, but for someone making their first start for their hometown club at home, I’m going to cut him a little bit of slack.

#23 Kris Twardek

(7): Given how threatening Massimo Ferrin can be in this league, the defensive performance from Kris Twardek to keep him mostly in check should be commended. The right-back was up and down the entire pitch and was cutting off most of the attacks down the left with 7 of 9 duels won and not committing any fouls all game. Offensively, he managed to win two free kicks, and was able to eclipse 80% passing accuracy with a significant amount of time on the ball. Looking at his heatmap for the game tells the most of everything for me, however, as it is emblematic of a pure wingback. Holding tight to the right touchline throughout the game but truly going up and down as required. The cherry on top of this performance was that Twardek was able to make it to his 4th consecutive game without a yellow, and therefore is one game away from a reduction in his yellow card accumulation and avoiding a suspension. He has truly found his stride for Atlético Ottawa and, as I’ve said many times before, in a position where there were definitely the most questions coming into the season.

#6 Liberman Torres

(6.5): Everyone was so excited to see Liberman Torres debut, after such a long wait and a brief consideration that he may be a psyop, that his first action to be what it was is the sort of cosmic humour that befalls every sports fan at least once. That only a couple minutes later he was caught out in a 3 on 2 with Luke Singh and could have reasonably cleared the ball off the line had he continued running, given Tiago Coimbra’s shot attempt was far closer to missing a wide-open goal than it really ever should have, you would have been correct to assume that Liberman was a bit out of his depth. Despite those early setbacks, the rest of his time on the pitch went well. Part of that was certainly having nearly 15 minutes of play up a man, but he made a couple of important defensive plays to snuff out a 10-man Halifax’s attempts at ending the game with a third. It’s pretty clear that Liberman coming in wasn’t in the plans this early, as it’s fairly evident he’s shaking off a lot of rust, but there is something there, I just don’t know when he’ll be able to access everything he has.

#99 Rayane Yesli

(6.8): While neither of the goals should be placed at Rayane Yesli’s feet, there is a lesson to take from this game with respect to how he commands his defense. The one thing you cannot say about Nathan Ingham is that he is quiet. Ingham marshals his defense well and makes sure that the proper precautions are taken to sniff out threats. While this doesn’t always bear fruit, it helps to make the game comfortable for young defenders, something that would have been essential for the centre-back pairings ATO put out on Sunday. Yesli himself is a young keeper, and it is a skill that he certainly knows he’ll need to develop, but it’s matches like these that show how imperative it can be. He can’t save everything, and in most cases, a goalkeeper is only as good as the players in front of him.

In writing about this game, it is becoming clearer to me that we weren’t as bad as I felt we were on the day. Getting caught up in the emotions of the masses is always going to play on your perspective, and as such a healthy distance between the game and something like this is necessary for a proper perspective. I still look back and don’t think we deserved a point, but the team fought through and showed the determination that I had mentioned we needed to see after Wednesday’s performance. The mentality that was all so absent at the end of 2023 has changed. That team doesn’t grab these two goals to steal a point, it collapses and maybe allows more. Part of that is the relative ability on the pitch, sure, but football is such a mental game that these moments tell you so much more about a team than a 7-0 against Valour ever could. Yes, those games are far more fun to watch, but it’s these results that end up winning you a championship when all is said and done.

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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