The Forward Press: Piccioli and Midfield in Focus as Atlético Ottawa Face Cavalry

The Forward Press: Piccioli and Midfield in Focus as Atlético Ottawa Face Cavalry

Sitting down with the media ahead of Saturday afternoon's clash at TD Place, coach Carlos Gonzalez had plenty of interesting tidbits to sprinkle into his Thursday pre-match presser. Atlético Ottawa will face Cavalry FC in the matinee match this Saturday, a match in which Cavalry will be looking to not only bounce back from an opening-day loss to Forge, but also to get one over on their bogey team of last year. Atleti’s centennial match will also mark an immediate return to Ottawa for the team's all-time top scorer Malcolm Shaw, but this time in opposition colours. Another key face present at TD Place on Saturday will be former Carleton midfielder Luca Piccioli, who signed for the club on Thursday after a few weeks of speculation, adding to a midfield already bursting at the seams. The build of this star-studded midfield was an area of note with Coach Gonzalez, so without further ado, here are all the quotes from coach CarGo ahead of ATO v Cavalry:

Photo © Phil Larivière

The Quotes: Carlos Gonzalez

On lessons learned from York: “The team showed a lot of character and this type of situation is what we want when we are losing a game. I think that with the ball, we had clarity in the offensive actions a little bit more in the second half, finding the great spaces to attack. I think that we have to try to be as fluid as that second half in the next game.”

On Cavalry firepower: “They're a great team. They have the core of the team they maintained from last season. So they've done part of the work, and they are giving continuity to the things that they built on last season...We know that they have a lot of strengths, and so we have to try to minimize them. At the same time try to play the game that we want to play – the idea that we've tried to build and impose in the offseason and preseason.”

On narrowing the pitch by one meter: “We've been thinking about that throughout the last two seasons that I've been here. We felt that the TD Place field was very big – enormous in certain moments. It was a field that maybe didn't help us to do what we wanted to do in certain moments. We've reduced it by one meter on each side…And I think that this is going to help us to be better in the pressure…We've noticed that they are very big fields and quite small fields. So we've tried to create something intermediate so that the team is always well-prepared for the good performances in different fields.”

On Sissoko playing deep in the final third: “It's a fluid system…The role of Sissoko at the end of the day is that he has a big engine. He's a very energetic player. That's why we are putting him in higher positions to defend, because I think that he is a good leader in this pressure. He's a player that increases the level on those high defence situations…Each day, he's going to move in different spaces. I don't think we're going to have a very fixed system, also because of the type of players that we have.”

On signing another locally developed player in midfielder Luca Piccioli: “One of the parts that we were looking for is to create a team that has a lot of sense of belonging. We had a couple of [local] players last season, and we tried to increase that number because at the end of the day, we think that it's very important in the critical moments of the seasons [and] games, this type of player usually steps up…I think that's very important to create a pathway for the young talent here in the area of the city, and also that they have reference so that they can see themselves in the future. And I think that that's a critical aspect for the growth of the game and for the growth of the club."

Photo © Phil Larivière

Gonzalez referred to Piccioli as a “project,” and indicated that, given the depth of the current midfield, opportunities for the former Ravens captain may be few and far between this season. “We have to be a little bit patient on him because he's still in a process of building himself as a pro,” Gonzalez said. And speaking of depth, Gonzalez mentioned that he will once again be able to call on every single one of his plethora of talents on Saturday, including the ill-fated knees of Kris Twardek. It will be interesting to see which players Gonzalez has in his starting XI come kickoff, as it was intriguing to hear Gonzalez talk of his four-four-two formation and the high press ATO appears to be emphasizing this season – a far cry from the absorb-and-counter football of past CarGo years. Of particular interest was how CarGo explained the role of Abou Sissoko as reactive and dependent on opposition. It makes one wonder how Atleti will choose to counter the pace of Cavalry’s dynamic wingers. Will we see the same forward press as last weekend? Or will Sissoko drop deeper to help occupy Malcolm Shaw and his fellow Cavalry attackers? Only time will tell.

No matter the lineup and no matter the weather, the ATO faithful and new fans alike will cram TD Place Stadium for the Pay What You Can Home (Re)Opener. The match against Cavalry will kick off at 2 pm. As always, the CCSG will be at the GCP before and after the game for drinks. We hope to see you there!

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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