The Forward Press: Heavy-Legged ATO Draw “Mental Battle” with Vancouver

The Forward Press: Heavy-Legged ATO Draw “Mental Battle” with Vancouver

Once again, Atlético Ottawa was forced to work to maintain its undefeated streak in another tired-looking performance from the Ottawa club. Rubén Del Campo scored his third goal in three consecutive league starts, although it was the scrappiest of the lot. ATO continued to knock on the door throughout the game, amassing a whopping 2.65xg, but it was Alejandro Díaz who leveled the match from close range after bolstering the Vancouver attack as a halftime substitute. Despite a disparity in chances, Atleti left Willoughby Park with only a point to show. Carlos Gonzalez spoke to the media in the postmatch presser and was joined by midfield general Manny Aparicio. Here are all the details you need to hear: 

The Quotes: Manny Aparicio

On the nature of the game: “It was back and forth. We had some tired legs from the midweek game and we knew what they were all about and we had to kind of put our foot down and win that physical battle because if not, you kind of get rolled over. So, yeah, we try to set the tone. We try to get stuck in, win second balls...We would have loved to take three points and be first by ourselves.”

On finding attacking solutions: “It's two games in a row where some teams are kind of sitting off a little bit on us. So we're going to have to start getting a bit more creative on how to break that down.”

Photo © CPL Photos

On yet another Rubén Del Campo goal: “He's moving off the ball. He's giving us options. Today it was a bit of a goalscorer's goal, that poacher [finish] which, if you can get five, six goals a season you're at the top of the golden boot. So I think it's amazing for him, but I just told him now to keep his feet on the ground. He was smiling a little bit, but it's another goal and hopefully he keeps on going with that because it's helping us tremendously and now we’ve got to get Sam going a little bit as well, getting him on the score sheet because we're going to need everyone this season.”

On getting results from tired performances: “We're still undefeated. It's true. We did have a lot of chances, especially first half and even in the goal where it just looked like our legs were heavy. We're kind of scuffing at the ball instead of really hitting it. But yeah, like you said, you know, we're still, we still take a point out of this. A point away from home is always good, even though we think we could have maybe deserved more.”

Photo © CPL Photos

The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez

On outcomes from the match: “I think that we can be very proud of the effort that the team put on the field today in a very tough week. After three games in short amount of time and also a long travel, I think that we did a pretty good game in which probably we should have got some advantage in the first half in which we created a lot and then while in the second half was a little bit more equal, because we started to drop energy. At the end of the day, a point that…probably in the future we will see as a positive.”

On feistiness: “Well, what I expect is that my players show personality. They show big personality. We have winning mentality in our team and also the opponents wanted to win the game. So it was not only a battle of football, also was a battle mental battle at certain moments of the game. So yeah, I can be happy and proud because the team gave a great image today.”

Photo © CPL Photos

On tactical adjustments in the second half: “I think the tactical part was minimum in the second half. You know, I think it was more about energy and the power that we had to play the game. It's true that they change a little bit, playing with two strikers and pressing a little bit higher. So this created that had more spaces in behind to run and this was why we were trying to be a little bit more pragmatic than in the first half and take chances.”

Carlos Gonzalez was quick to point out that while the outcome of the match was disheartening in that Atleti once again was unable to hold a lead until full-time, he expects that it is a point that will be seen as a positive down the line. He touched on the strength of Vancouver this year. “It’s going to be a team that is going to be very tough to beat,” he said. Aparicio addressed the tactical frustrations of playing Vancouver FC, highlighting a trend that appears to be sweeping the west side of the country in which teams are “sitting off” the capital city club. It is going to take all the tactical ingenuity of Carlos Gonzalez and his team to break down this strategy which has so far held Atlético Ottawa to two straight draws. On Friday when Gonzalez sat down pre-match to discuss his squad, he mentioned how pleased he is with the depth of his squad in almost every position. With the injury to Kévin Dos Santos meaning a long-term spell on the sidelines, one wonders if Gonzalez is going to be pleading for a few more goalscoring options from the bench. At the moment, it seems his only real option beyond the goalless Sam Salter and the admittedly spritely Gabby Antinoro has been to overload the pitch with fullbacks.

Wherever the goals may come from in the future, Gonzalez can still take solace in his defensively solid team, which has conceded less than a goal per match thus far. In the apparent day-to-day absence of Nate Ingham, Rayane Yesli was given a rare league appearance, with the 24-year-old looking comfortable in a match he may not have been properly prepared for. Atlético Ottawa travel to Starlight Stadium on Friday, hoping to be the first CPL club to bulge the Pacific net this season, an experimental match ahead of the second-leg Canadian Championship match, which will be played in almost identical detail two weeks later. But all that is in the future. For now, revel in the fact that we are top of the league! Vamos Atleti!

About Ben

Ben Ralph is a die-hard football fan and a journalism student at Carleton. He has been supporting Everton through the ups and downs (but mostly the downs) and could not believe his luck when he stumbled across Atlético Ottawa in 2021. Now part of the Atleti faithful, his dream has always been to write football stories, and he is excited to join other fans as writers for CCSG. His football journalist idols are Adam Hurrey, James Richardson, and Charlie Eccleshare from The Football Cliches Podcast.

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