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Atlético Ottawa settles for road draw against Vancouver FC

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Despite a dominant showing, Atlético Ottawa only managed a 1-1 draw against second-year club Vancouver FC in Canadian Premier League action in Langley, BC Sunday. It was the hosts’ lack of decisiveness and clinical finishing that primarily led to the points being shared.

Ottawa completely dominated the stat sheet, controlling possession and outshooting Vancouver 19-8 (7-4 on target and 12-5 from inside the box). Ottawa created four big chances to zero for Vancouver, and Ottawa dominated the expected goals (xG) battle 2.65 to 0.31.

Despite their statistical dominance, Atlético struggled to put the ball in the back of the net. Their lack of clinical action combined with the brilliant performance of Vancouver’s goalkeeper Callum Irving –who made five crucial saves to keep his team alive– limited Ottawa to only one goal.

Even with the draw, Atlético remains undefeated in all competitions this season. They sit atop the Canadian Premier League table with a record of 3-2-0 (11 points), level on points with Pacific FC. They drew 0-0 to Pacific FC in the Canadian Championship quarterfinals a week after a historic 7-0 win against Valour in the tournament’s first round.

Ottawa Head Coach Carlos Gonzalez was content with how his team played in a tough road environment and was satisfied with their mentality of playing aggressively to try to win, and not simply settling for a draw.

“We can be very proud of the effort that the team put on the field,” González, said. “It was a tough week, with three games in a short period of time and then a long travel, but we played a good game. We should’ve had an advantage in the first half as we created a lot (of chances), and then in the second half it was more equal, because our energy dropped, so we see this as a point that’s not worth too much based on how well we played, but in the future we’ll probably see it as a positive point.”

Vancouver Head Coach Afshin Ghotbi was disappointed to be held to one point, but was pleased with how his team bounced back in the second half, especially after conceding and was okay with the result considering the last minute injuries his team had to overcome.

“Considering the circumstances, where we’re hit with three unforeseen injuries to central defenders, and to put two guys who had never played together and one that just arrived off the plane and to only (concede) one goal off one mistake… I think it’s quite positive,” Ghotbi said. 

“Obviously we want to win, you always want to win… I felt the second half we were a better 

team than in the first half. I felt we were stronger, played a little more on the front foot, but we just couldn’t find the winner,” Ghotbi added.

Ottawa made many acquisitions in the offseason and are still gelling with each other, so these matches are important building blocks in that learning process. Manny Aparicio said the team will only get better as they continue to grow together.

“We’re starting to learn from each other,” Manny Aparicio said. “There are a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces on the team, but as long as we keep on building those relationships, I think we’re on the right path.” 

Vancouver FC’s form at home has been excellent this season, they won their previous two games at home with an aggregate scoreline of 6-1. Atlético played a strong game defensively, focused on the details, and pressed high up the pitch without the ball to hurry up Vancouver’s decision-making, force turnovers, and subdue Vancouver’s lethal attack.

In the early stages of the first half, it was a tactical chess match as both teams struggled to break their opponent down. Vancouver only had one shot attempt and a single shot on target for the entire first half. Ottawa fared better offensively, generating seven shots, totalling an xG of 1.35. Their biggest chance came from a shot by Ballou Tabla in the 31st minute, which he should’ve scored; many of their other chances were slightly lower quality scoring chances.

At halftime, both teams made offensive focused substitutions which opened up the game more. Vancouver brought on striker Alejandro Diaz to revert back to their preferred 4-2-2-2 formation so they could attack up the wings and cross balls into the box. Whereas Ottawa pressed higher up the pitch and began to move the ball around quicker to put pressure on Vancouver’s defense.

Moments after Vancouver FC thought they had scored the opening goal, which was ruled out for a foul, Ottawa striker Ruben del Campo collected a rebound from Ollie Bassett’s initial shot and fired it toward the goal before it deflected off Irving’s midsection and over the line.

Some strong defensive pressing by Ballou Tabla forced Vancouver’s center-back Anthony White to turn the ball over, which allowed Tabla to advance up the sideline before crossing it to Bassett.

“(Del Campo is) a player with lots of talent, he’s been a youth international player for Switzerland, he has a big resume, so it’s not surprising to see him hit a good level, (consistently) scoring and helping the team,” Gonzalez said of del Campo, who scored his fourth goal of the season (third in the CPL) and created three chances, including one big chance, nearly setting up his teammates on a few occasions against Vancouver.

For a team with a lot of attacking talent, del Campo’s presence in front of goal, his excellent pressing, playmaking and hold up play opens up space for Tabla, Bassett, and Aparicio among others to create loads of scoring chances.

“He’s moving off the ball, he’s giving us options,” Aparicio said. “Today, he scored a goalscorers

 goal, a poacher’s goal, which if he can get five, six, seven of those this season, it will put him near the top of the Golden Boot race.”

“So this is amazing for him… but hopefully he keeps on going, because it’s helping us tremendously,” Aparicio continued.

With the lead, Atlético looked a bit shaky defensively as Vancouver began to build momentum on offense by creating a plethora of dangerous scoring chances. Six of eight Vancouver shots came after Ottawa took the lead. Vancouver clearly wanted to keep their home unbeaten run alive.

Under 15 minutes after Ottawa took the lead, Vancouver equalized after an excellent pin-point cross by right-back Kadin Chung found the head of striker Alejandro Diaz who was left unmarked in the six-yard box after jumping up higher than anyone else on the pitch. 

After two straight road losses, Vancouver will be pleased with the fight they showed. They had the mentality to fight hard for an equalizer after conceding a tough goal off an individual error before pushing hard for the victory until the final whistle.

“Our mindset was to create opportunities and dangerous actions in their box,” Vancouver’s goal scorer Díaz said of his team’s response to conceding. “We played a lot of crosses, and put pressure on them in their box, and that was important for our confidence, and thankfully we got our goal.”

For the final 15 minutes, both teams desperately tried to find the winner. Vancouver had three shots in that span, while Ottawa had four, but neither registered a chance over 0.13 xG in the final quarter of an hour. The most dangerous scoring opportunity was a late Aboubacar Sissoko chance from close range that he shot right at Irving.

Rayane Yesli and Irving both made a few key saves down the stretch to keep the match level.

Up next for Ottawa is a trip to Victoria BC to play Pacific FC on May 17. Vancouver travels to Hamilton to play Forge FC on May 18.


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