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Atlético Ottawa beat Valour FC for second time in four days

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Atlético Ottawa cruised to a fairly comfortable 2-0 win against Valour FC to improve to 3-1-0 (10 points) on the season and remain undefeated in the Canadian Premier League Sunday.

It may not have been as comfortable as Ottawa’s 7-0 record-breaking win against Valour in the Canadian Championship four days earlier. But this victory over Winnipeg’s club leapfrogged Ottawa above Pacific FC into first place in the CPL table on goal difference after four games played.

Atletico Ottawa start well

Ottawa came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and dominated the first half. Ottawa outshot Valour 7-2 (4-0 on target), had 55 percent possession and won 60 percent of the duels.

Defensively, Ottawa was never threatened by Valour’s attack at any point; Ottawa limited Valour to zero shots on target and an expected goals tally of 0.06 in the first half. 

Ottawa capitalized on a Valour defensive mistake on both of its goals. In the opening 45 minutes, Valour was plagued by many of the same problems as in Wednesday’s game; they lost concentration in key moments defensively, which allowed Ottawa to find gaps and score twice.

After a foul by Valour midfielder Noah Verhoeven (on loan from Ottawa), Valour was unable to clear the resulting Ottawa free kick out of its 18-yard box. The ball fell right to Ruben del Campo, who was left unmarked and had the space to hit it softly on the half-volley into the bottom left corner of the net to give Ottawa the lead inside 20 minutes.

Atlético Ottawa, Valour FC, Canadian Premier League

Atlético Ottawa beat Valour FC 2-0 in their 2024 Canadian Premier League match in Ottawa Sunday, May 5, 2024. Photo: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography

Del Campo has become a huge part of Ottawa’s recent success. After failing to score a goal in 16 appearances in 2023, he has scored four goals in his last three matches this season, all within a week. He was brought in with the expectation that he would be an impactful player offensively who was clinical in the final third. It now appears he has the confidence to do that.

Del Campo was originally the second-choice striker behind Sam Salter, however, after Salter failed to score in Ottawa’s opening two matches, Gonzalez opted to start del Campo and he has been rewarded for that decision.

“He’s in a sweet moment. I’m happy for him, he’s been working for a long time, very hard. He deserves this moment he’s in, but at the end of the day, we still have a long season. I expect a lot from him and I also expect a lot from Sam Salter, who I also think is a great player that’s working very hard,” Ottawa head coach Carlos Gonzalez said postmatch.

Less than 15 minutes later, a long cross into the box by Kris Twardek caught multiple Valour defenders ball-watching. Youngster Gabriel Antinoro ran past several defenders unmarked before controlling Twardek’s pinpoint cross, turning around and firing a shot off the left post and in to double Ottawa’s advantage 32 minutes in.

Antinoro was thrilled about his first goal of the year, however, was more focused on the result.

“The opportunity to take my chance and score felt amazing. But the most important thing is the three points. We knew they weren’t going to come with the same mindset as they came Wednesday, we knew it would be a harder game,” Antinoro said. “So to get three points from a hard game like this feels amazing, and we just got to keep going.”

Ottawa allowed to relax in second half

After a dominant first half, Ottawa was able to relax a bit in the second half. Considering it was Atlético’s third match in eight days, it’s understandable that their energy levels slightly dipped in the second half. Unlike on May 1 when Ottawa appeared to want to continue scoring to keep building their lead, yesterday they seemed to be content to conserve their lead, manage the game defensively, and limit the amount of dangerous scoring chances that Valour could create.

In the second half, Valour had the majority of the possession and outshot Ottawa 5-3 (2-0 on target), however, Ottawa’s defence held strong, remained compact, played mistake-free football and limited Valour to very few quality scoring chances and a total xG tally of 0.40. Valour’s only two shots on target came in the second half; both shots were easily saved by Nathan Ingham. 

Gonzalez was happy with the result but was also proud of how his team handled themselves in a difficult fixture.

“We can be very satisfied with the game we [played]today,” Gonzalez said postmatch. “It was a difficult game to approach, with the last result very near; to play another game against a team in a short amount of time is not easy psychologically, in how you approach that game. I think the players understood it really well. I’m very happy for them because we maintained consistency. We started strong for the first 45 minutes and we were able to manage the second half well.”

Atlético Ottawa are well-built both offensively and defensively. Starting the match strong offensively, being clinical in the final third to build an early lead and then being extremely difficult to break down later in the match as they hold on to their lead is a play style Ottawa can execute well and we may be seeing it a lot more this season.

Ottawa wasn’t at their best offensively, only recording four shots on target and an xG of 0.74, however, still scoring two goals is a testament to Ottawa’s ability to be lethal offensively in the final third and to punish teams for their defensive mistakes. 

Valour FC’s troubles continue

After four matches, Valour sit last in the league with a 0-0-4 record; they’ve scored only twice and conceded 10 goals. Valour has lost five straight matches in all competitions to begin the 2024 season.

While their latest 2-0 loss to Ottawa might not have been the result head coach Phil Dos Santos wanted, he decided to focus on the positives, saying it was a much better performance than their 7-0 loss last week. After the match, he credited his side for coming together defensively and keeping Ottawa much quieter in the second half. 

Atlético Ottawa beat Valour FC 2-0 in their 2024 Canadian Premier League match in Ottawa Sunday, May 5, 2024. Photo: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography

Atlético Ottawa, Valour FC, Canadian Premier League

Atlético Ottawa beat Valour FC 2-0 in their 2024 Canadian Premier League match in Ottawa Sunday, May 5, 2024. Photo: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography

Atlético Ottawa beat Valour FC 2-0 in their 2024 Canadian Premier League match in Ottawa Sunday, May 5, 2024. Photo: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography

Atlético Ottawa, Valour FC, Canadian Premier League

Atlético Ottawa beat Valour FC 2-0 in their 2024 Canadian Premier League match in Ottawa Sunday, May 5, 2024. Photo: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography

Atlético Ottawa, Valour FC, Canadian Premier League

Atlético Ottawa beat Valour FC 2-0 in their 2024 Canadian Premier League match in Ottawa Sunday, May 5, 2024. Photo: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography

What I asked the guys is we absolutely needed to be better pros; to fight, to show a little bit more responsibility in the way that we play and approach the game,” Dos Santos said. “I think today the team displayed a little bit of what we could be … For a team to be consistent, we’re going to need to make sure that we deal with those moments a little bit better.”

“The minimum you ask is the fight. It’s your ability to compete and not allow the opposition to win that game. And I think that there were big moments in the game where we were a lot better, –not a little bit– a lot better than what happened on Wednesday,” Dos Santos added.

Up next

Next up for Valour, is a trip to York on May 10. 

Next up for Ottawa, is a home clash against Pacific FC in the first leg of the Canadian Championship quarterfinals on May 8 awaits.

Looking ahead to the cup match against Pacific, playing a conservative second half was key to getting a few of Ottawa’s key players like Ballou Tabla, Manny Aparicio and Del Campo a bit of crucial rest after a busy week. Midfielder Ollie Basset, another key player for Ottawa, didn’t start the match but came on as a sub just before the hour mark.

Another key factor for Ottawa which helps them manage many matches in a short period is the fact they have many players who can excel in different positions, which allows for more squad rotation and gives key players rest without sacrificing the on-field performance.

“We have players who can play on the inside and the outside. We have Matteo (DeBrienne)

who can play as a fullback and as a winger and we have Dani Morer and Kris Twardek who are fullbacks but can also play as a winger,” Gonzalez said. 

“It’s very important in a long season in which you have (many) games to have these types of players that can perform well in different positions because it makes it easier for me as a coach to make balance on some workloads, some minutes and to maintain the (team’s) performance,” Gonzalez continued.

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