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Atlético Ottawa overcomes early deficit, splits points on the road against Cavalry FC

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Job done. After losing their first league match of the season against York United on June 15, Atlético Ottawa responded well against Cavalry FC yesterday evening, fighting back from an extremely early deficit to split the points at ATCO Field. 

Ottawa will be happy to avoid back-to-back defeats, however, their form in the last four games in all competitions (one win, two draws, and one loss) hasn’t been spectacular. Two weeks ago, Ottawa had an eight-point lead atop the Canadian Premier League table. Now, the lead is only five points and it can be reduced to four if Vancouver FC beat Halifax at home on June 23.

Cavalry started the game strong, attacking right from the kickoff. On their first attack of the game, the ball deflected out for a corner kick. Ottawa goalkeeper Nathan Ingham was forced to make a save after ex-Atlético forward Malcolm Shaw headed the corner toward goal, however, the rebound fell directly to the foot of Tobias Warschewski who made no mistake, tucking it into the top right corner. 

Ingham was frustrated about the manner they conceded the goal, adding if they had avoided that, they could’ve walked away with a huge win.

It was a lapse of judgment on a set piece, which was silly because we talked about it before the match, we knew set pieces was going to be something that they were going to try and get something off of,” Ingham said.

Cavalry had an early lead less than two minutes into the match.

In the first 15 minutes of the match, Cavalry were the much better side. They had all the momentum, were constantly playing on the front foot, handily won the possession battle, controlled the pace of the game, and created numerous high-quality scoring chances. 

It looked like Cavalry FC would build on their lead and potentially send league leaders Ottawa to its second straight league loss.

However, it wasn’t meant to be.

After the first 15 minutes, the tides shifted and Atlético began to control the pace of the match. Ottawa played on the front foot for the remainder of the first half, having over 65 percent possession in the latter 30 minutes, while creating more higher-quality scoring chances than their opposition.

Atlético’s hard work paid off in the 39th minute when Alberto Zapater scored his fifth goal of the year (third in the Canadian Premier League) by ferociously heading home a cross by Ruben del Campo to capitalize on a defensive mistake by Cavalry. 

Interestingly, all five of Zapater’s goals in 2024 have been headers; and del Campo, who was brought in to score goals –he scored seven this season in all competitions– is also making an impact in the playmaking department, recording two assists in addition to consistently making key passes into the final third.

Given the amount of dangerous scoring chances Ottawa created, Ottawa will feel like they should’ve come away with all three points. However, Manny Aparicio hitting the crossbar in the 85th minute, and Luke Singh narrowly heading a corner kick over the crossbar at the end of the first half are two of a handful of near-misses that Ottawa will look back on when they watch the game film back.

Overall, Ottawa was able to hold 49 percent possession, breaking their previous record of most possession at ATCP field by a significant amount. The next best mark was 35.56 percent. 

Atlético Head Coach Carlos Gonzalez was impressed with how his team played and how well they responded to trailing so early.

I think that this has been the best game of football for the team at ATCO field.  I think that (in past) seasons we’ve won here with a completely different style,” Gonzalez said, referring to his team sitting in a low defensive block and relying on the counter-attack in previous meetings in Calgary. “Today, we were dominant for most of the game and we created many chances to win the game.”

Ingham built on Gonzalez’s sentiments, saying that getting a positive result against Cavalry at ATCO Field is always a difficult thing to do. He added his team should be proud of the result and the resilience they showed to get it, despite conceding so early.

“I think you should judge teams based on how they deal with adversity, even if that is only one loss. Looking at teams that win championships, they rarely, you know something we didn’t do in 2022, lose games back to back.”

With the draw, Cavalry falls to 2-8-1 (14 points) and sits sixth in the CPL table. Cavalry’s eighth draw in 11 matches already ties a club record for most draws in a single campaign, however, in 2021, their 8th draw didn’t come until matchday 24. 

Cavalry have also dropped nine points from winning positions, more than any other team in the league, which is quite concerning for a team with such talent.

“After we scored a goal, we were not brave enough anymore,” said Cavalry FC defender Daan Klomp. “We didn’t press. We don’t find our pressing triggers, and yeah, I think we just need to push more for that second goal…it’s basically the way our season is going now. Every game we don’t win, we’re disappointed.” 

Cavalry had plenty of opportunities to score multiple goals last night, with 14 shots (nine from inside the box) and five on target in addition to 20 touches inside Ottawa’s penalty area –adding to their CPL leading total of 271– however, being clinical in the 18-yard box and perfecting the final action remains a concern. Cavalry have only scored four times in the last five games.

We just need more goal scorers, other than Tobias Warschewski, I think the second [most on our team has]one goal, and that’s [11] games into the season,” said Klomp. “That’s something we’re not happy with, and we know that, and we have to help each other going through that.”

Warschewski has six goals, second most in the CPL and Fraser Aird, William Akio, Sergio Camargo, Malcolm Shaw, and Charlie Trafford have each only scored one. Their other goal was a Kris Twardek own goal in Ottawa and Cavalry’s first meeting, a 1-1 draw on April 20. Injuries have been a concern but for a team with so much talent and depth, they need to fix their scoring issues soon if they hope to make playoffs.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Cavalry, however. Their defense has been phenomenal as of late, only allowing one goal in the last three matches and keeping clean sheets against Vancouver and Forge. If their strong defensive core can keep it up and they find their offensive form again, Cavalry has the potential to be a dangerous team.

Cavalry won possession 51-49 percent, each team had 14 shots, but Cavalry had five shots on target to Ottawa’s two. Each team created two big scoring chances.

Up next: Cavalry visits Halifax on July 1 and Ottawa hosts Forge FC on June 28.

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About Author

Adamo Marinelli is a multimedia freelance journalist who specializes in sports reporting. His writing, editing, and multimedia work has appeared in Total Soccer News, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun, The Hockey News, The Canadian Baseball Network, 49 Sports, Ottawa Sports Pages, Capital Current, 613 Sports, and The Charlatan.

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