The Forward Press: Liberman Torres the Hero as ATO Show ‘Champion Spirit’

The Forward Press: Liberman Torres the Hero as ATO Show ‘Champion Spirit’

Liberman Torres take a bow! The Ecuadorian defensive midfielder cements himself in ATO lore with the most remarkable 8 minute double-act, in what is surely one of the great CPL games. A rollercoaster of emotions had most at TD Place wondering if it would be points dropped against Forge at full-time, but another pinpoint moment of magic from Dani Morer to find a surging defensive midfielder gives Ottawa a much-needed escape. Rarely has there been a game with so much to talk about, with an action-packed match bookended by two moments of magic from two unlikely ATO midfielders. Sure it wasn’t the perfect night for Carlos González, who said he “suffered from the bench” after a number of defensive lapses in the second half. But after an already testing week for the Spaniard off the field, González can at least rest knowing his side are seven points clear of second in the league, and it appears like this win may have meant more to the team than any of the wins before it. To shed some light on the feelings after the match, Carlos González and Amer Didić, who also found himself on the scoresheet, joined the post-match presser. Here are all the details:

The Quotes: Carlos González

On the rollercoaster scoreline: “It has been a fantastic game for the fans, for the people that like this magical sport. But it's true that I've suffered a lot from the bench. It has been a game in which we've conceded, they have conceded. It has been a game of mistakes. It reminded me of the game we played last season against Forge in Hamilton that we lost 4-3 also in the last minute. So it was a similar game but this time maybe that champion spirit starts to be more in us.”

On Torres Heroics: “He came from villain to the hero in two minutes. This is the sport. I'm happy for him because it's true that if the game finished with this mistake, it would be a hard one for him, for us, for everyone. But I think that he deserved to make up that goal. At the end of the day, I can only think in three very important points…I think that this type of win makes a big bond between the players. We were a group of players, then we're starting to be a good team. Now what I've seen in the locker room is we're starting to be a family.”

Photo © Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography

On the significance of Abou’s hug after scoring: “For me, it has been a tough week. I had to leave the country for a couple of days. I went to Spain because of a personal situation. So you see this type of link and bonding and the relation that we are creating with the players, the staff. I'm very proud of that more than the technical or tactical part. Him coming to celebrate the goal with me was very special.”

On self-belief: “This is a spirit that is inside the genetics of the players. I don't think that you can work too much on this. It's about how they understand life, how they understand the sport, and the type of mentality that we have in the locker room. We knew that we were signing this type of players, and now they are showing that in this difficult moment, they are giving always steps forward, not step backwards. I think that this is a very important aspect to create a winning team.”

Photo © Matt Zambonin/Freestyle Photography

The Quotes: Amer Didić

On Liberman Torres: It says a lot about him…He was the hero for us tonight. In football, anything happens. Mistakes happen, of course. And that's just an example of, “Something happens, okay, move on.” Next thing he's making a late run to the middle of the field. Dani puts a ball in, back of the net, you win. Short-term memory football. And he had it right there.

On defensive lapses: “You can contribute a little bit of everything...Whether it's a mental lapse, which can happen easily for any player in any moment, right? And that's the beauty of the sport. The beauty of sports is staying concentrated and locked in for the whole 90, 95 minutes, whatever the time is. And if you do that, you are the team that's going to win. So I don't think it's anything that we should be worrying about really, really intensely, but it's just all mental at that point.”

On González calling ATO a family: “Family is the best word you can put it. You can see it here in the locker room after the game and just the feeling around the whole team…[It’s] something that I've been wanting to have a part of. It's amazing. It's everybody from top to bottom, coaching staff, back, front office. It's all a team, and we're all in this together.”

On the 5,081 fans: “We see it. We notice. We want to win, obviously, for you guys. That's what it's all about for us, is having those smiles on the faces of fans, the coaches, us as well…And we just hope that we continue to build and at the end of the year, hopefully we're in a position where we can lift something up for the city and for the club.”

Photo © Philippe Larivière

The Big Takeaway: An Outpouring of Emotion

Even before the match kicked off, ATO v Forge promised to be rife with narrative. The stage was set for a gritty match, but nobody could have guessed the sheer range of emotion to come out of Friday night's matchup. From minute two, when Sissoko’s acrobatic opener prompted an emotional celebration with his manager, to minute 57, when Nate Inghams safe hands sent Kwasi Poku sprawling to the turf, the game was all emotion.

But if the match was wild, the post-match scenes weren’t much tamer, with Carlos González walking straight down the tunnel at full time, leaving behind the Atleti celebrations which echoed across the pitch and down the locker room tunnel for at least half-an-hour after the match had been won. While the win was by no means pretty, it appears to have served a purpose beyond the procurement of three points. González commented that the team has become a family, a point which was reiterated shortly afterwards by Amer Didić. To see the buy-in as every player rushed Liberman Torres in the final moments of the match only cemented this idea. 

Even the unsavory emotions during the match: the frustrations, the grimaces – something seen in recent years as inherently negative – can be attributed elsewhere according to Amer Didić, who explained that it “means we care.” The defender explained, “That’s what we want in this team, we want guys with that fire, that passion. We want to win.” 

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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