MATCH ANALYSIS: Atlético Ottawa extend unbeaten streak in CPL play to 9 with 2-0 road win over Valour
Canadian Premier League

Final Score: Valour FC 0-2 Atlético Ottawa
Goalscorers: Bassett 59′, Salter 90+1′
Game of the 2024 season: 34
CPL match: 518

Match in a minute or less

Atlético Ottawa still remain as the lone CPL team yet to lose in league play this season, as they extended their unbeaten run to begin the 2024 season to nine games with a 2-0 win over Valour FC at Princess Auto Stadium on Sunday.

After a quiet first half, Ottawa opened the scoring in the 59th minute of this one, as Ollie Bassett stepped up to take a penalty won by Rubén del Campo, making no mistake with his attempt to give his team a 1-0 lead.

From there, Ottawa would seal the game in the 91st minute, as Aboubacar Sissoko found Sam Salter with a nice pass, and Salter did the rest from there, opening up a shooting lane for himself before slotting a shot in off the post to make it 2-0, securing the win for his team.

Three Observations

Atlético Ottawa continues to find ways to pick up points as they extend unbeaten run:

Their continues to be an air of inevitability with Atlético Ottawa right now.

No matter how they’re playing, they always seem likely to find results in games, as they showed last week when they earned a draw against the Halifax Wanderers, sealed by an 100th minute equalizer from Alberto Zapater after they trailed 2-0 earlier in that match.

Because of that, it felt like a matter of when, not if, they’d come and find something in this game, especially as the game went on. Valour had been doing well to go toe-to-toe with the league leaders, but they were going to need to turn that into a goal, or else it felt like the edge would swing further in Ottawa’s favour as the game went.

Ottawa then showed why that was the case with how they managed the second half, as they ended up putting together a perfect game plan to turn the game on its head.

Offensively, they slowly started to ramp up the temperature, pushing the play more towards Valour’s goal. Through that, they were able to win the penalty for the first goal, before securing their late insurance marker.

That was reflected statistically, as they had eight shots and 1.65 Expected Goals (xG) in the second half after only being able to muster up six shots and 0.71 xG in the first half. Part of that boost came from the penalty, certainly, but even when removing that from the equation, they had a more prolific second half than the first offensively.

Then, more importantly, they were even better defensively, too. After a bit more of an open first half, in which Valour also had six shots and a few good looks at goal, those opportunities nearly completely dissipated in the second half, as they generated just two shots (for a measly 0.07 xG).

That’s key, as it’s never easy to be able to defend on the road, especially later in games, yet Ottawa seemed to only get better as the game went on and as they put the win in their sights.

“We can be happy because we maintained our streak,” Ottawa’s head coach, Carlos González said,” We had a very solid game, we grabbed three important points on the road, and I’m very satisfied with the maturity that the team showed, we had a very solid game, a complete game, one in which we showed that the team is continuing to grow.”

Photo Credit: Valour FC

Yet, this game ended up being a perfect representation of why Ottawa’s been successful this season. If they need, they can be rock-solid defensively, only conceding six goals in nine games, keeping clean sheets in four games and allowing two or more goals just once. Staying true to their “Atlético DNA”, which relies on strong defensive play and a commitment to working hard off the ball, that’s been not surprising to see.

At the same time, they can also be dynamic offensively, sitting atop the CPL in goals for with 17 after this game, as they can also be dangerous in the attack. With Ollie Bassett and Manny Aparicio pulling the strings, Ballou Tabla offering a threat in-behind, and the duo of Rubén del Campo and Sam Salter both able to find the net, they’ve got different pieces who can step up in the attack. In this one, it ended up being Bassett and Salter, with the latter chipping in with his first goal of the year, but in other games it has been different faces stepping up across the pitch, including midfielders and defenders.

Speaking of that last point, however, that’s arguably been Ottawa’s biggest strengths, and what they’ll need to maintain if they’re to keep up this start, and it’s how important the collective has been to their results. The more that different players can step up and take the pressure of their main contributors, that can make Ottawa even more dangerous, as this stretch has shown.

“This is one of the keys of the season,” González continued. “We’ve created a squad that has internal competition, we have (guys at every) position that can play in any moment, and the guys understand that, they’re accepting their roles for every single game and they are given their best for the team, if they have five, 25 or 75 minutes to play.”

Over a long season, that can add up over time, and so far it’s benefitted Ottawa to start this campaign.

“We came here knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy game, despite our results, so we put that past us,” Ottawa’s Matteo de Brienne explained afterwards. “We knew that Valour had something they wanted to fight for, and they were going to come grab it, but everybody through 90 minutes was solid today, and that’s a great feeling to be apart of.”

Ottawa able to claim battle of flanks against Valour:

On the wider pitch of Princess Auto Stadium, it was expected that both teams might look to play in wider areas, and that certainly ended up being the case to start the game.

That meant that through the first 45 minutes, most of the action was concentrated in one key area of the pitch – down Valour’s right and Ottawa’s left-hand side. That was reflected in the numbers, as Valour sent 47.1% of their first-half attacks up that side, while Ottawa sent 52.9%.

As a result, it meant a busy start for the players deployed on that side, as Roberto Alárcon and Abdul Binaté were active for Valour, while Gabriel Antinoro and Matteo de Brienne were battling against them for Ottawa.

Yet, a large reason for that was the ferocious midfield battle that had also begun to brew throughout that half, with both teams putting in a big shift in that area of the pitch. In particular, Valour’s Raphael Ohin and Ottawa’s Manny Aparicio were very active in the first half, with both finding the opportunities to stick some tough tackles on the other.

Because of that, it pushed both teams to seek the wide areas to try and find space on the pitch, with both teams preferring the right to start.

Then, in the second half, things shifted. As energy levels dipped and substitutes came into the game, it led both teams to vary up their attack, which saw both teams approach change as the game went on.

For Valour, they started to spread their attack between both flanks, sending 39.8% of their attacks down the right and 39% down the left in the second half, nearly a perfectly even split. Then, Ottawa shifted the pendulum even further, sending 43.5% of their attacks down the right, as they looked to use the fresh legs of Kris Twardek, Ballou Tabla and Bassett on that side.

Through that shift, Ottawa seemed to find an edge, especially later in the game. Part of that came from Valour dipping a bit in midfield after Ohin exited, which opened up more space across the entire pitch, but that ended up opening even more space out wide, in particular.

Yet, that offers a key lesson to both teams. For Valour, it shows the importance of midfield engines Ohin, Dante Campbell and Juan Pablo Sánchez, the latter of whom missed out with injuries, to this team. Ohin was able to put in a shift when he was on the field, but once he came off, the energy levels dipped, and that allowed Ottawa to turn up the pace.

“We were a bit more intentional,” Valour’s head coach, Phil Dos Santos, said of the first half. “We pressed with a bit more intention in the first half, and that gave us certain rewards, we had a few balls that we recovered higher on the pitch and and we were able to to take away the middle of the field from Ottawa, but then it became a bit more difficult in the second half.”

Valour’s attack map from this game, showing where they spent most of the game attacking (OPTA)

As for Ottawa, it shows that they can hurt teams both wide and centrally. In other games, the likes of Alberto Zapater, Manny Aparicio and Aboubacar Sissoko can control games in possession from central areas, but they didn’t get the chance to do much of that in the final third in this one. Instead, Ottawa spent most of the game out wide, as they sent a lot of the attack through their wide players.

On the wider pitch, that ended up being key, helping them get the result in the end.

“Guys have different qualities that they are capable of showing on (different) days,” de Brienne said. “So being able to give guys on our team a lot of space (out wide), I feel is a big danger to the opposition, it’s something that really helps us in the ball movement, to get forward.”

Ottawa’s attack map from this game, showing where they spent most of the game attacking (OPTA)

Ohin’s return sparks a strong midfield performance from Valour:

After making just two starts since the end of the 2021 season as he’s dealt with multiple knee injuries, Valour’s Raphael Ohin made his return to Valour’s starting XI in this game, marking his first start since April of last year.

Having been eased back into a return, making appearances off the bench in Valour’s last two games, this was seen as the perfect opportunity to introduce him back to a starting role, as he filled in for Sánchez.

With that, Ohin brought what he typically brings into the midfield – his engine, some tenacity and quality on the ball. A familiar sight to Valour fans, given his status as one of the team’s original players from their inaugural 2019 campaign, it was a sight for sore eyes to see him playing given his prolonged absences, and Valour felt a lift because of that.

Photo Credit: Valour FC

As a result, while Ohin went just 65 minutes as he continues to get eased back into action, he made sure they were an impactful 65 minutes, helping Valour go toe-to-toe with a tough Ottawa midfield.

Despite spending much of the game matched up with Aparicio, who is one of the best in the CPL on the day, Ohin made the most of that battle, doing well in that battle.

“I think that he was probably the best player in the first half, and I’m looking at both teams,” Dos Santos said. “So I’m excited to
see how he’s going to be able to develop this game as he grows in rhythm and in confidence.”

Yet, that shows why the midfielder whose nickname is the “Rhino” has been so missed for Valour. For this team to be at their best, engine and industry are key in the middle of the park, and Ohin doesn’t lack for those two things.

Certainly, he can impact the game in other ways, but no matter if he’s making marauding runs into the box, controlling the tempo of the game from deep or patrolling from box-to-box, his work rate and tenacity is central to what makes him tick in midfield.

Because of that, he was pleased that he was able to put in the shift that he did in this one. Given his injury history, it would’ve been understandable if he took things a bit easier to start as he eased his way back into action.

That’s not in his nature, though, and it shows why his team is so pleased to have him back, with this being hoped to be the first of many starts he makes throughout the rest of the year.

“When being out for so long, you always have this little talk coming in being like ‘What if?,” Ohin explained. “But one thing that I like about myself is, whenever I cross that line onto the pitch, I lock in and I don’t even think about it at all, I just play, that’s exactly what happened today, you could tell I was just not holding back at all, I was enjoying myself out there and I loved it.”

All of Raphael Ohin’s actions from this game (OPTA) Player of the Match

Matteo de Brienne, Atlético Ottawa

Making his return to a familiar stopping grounds, de Brienne put in a big shift at left back for Ottawa against his old club Valour, making his presence felt on both sides of the ball.

As a result, he finished with two shots, two chances created, two dribbles and nine passes into the final third offensively, while adding four tackles, three clearances, one interceptions and three recoveries while winning nine out of 16 of his duels in a complete showing.

All of Matteo de Brienne’s actions from this game (OPTA)

What’s next?

For a third straight game, Valour will play at home next week, as they get set to host Pacific FC at Princess Auto Stadium on Friday, June 14th (5:00 p.m. PT/7:00 p.m. CT). Meanwhile, Atlético Ottawa are set to return home to take on York United on Saturday, June 15th at TD Place (1:00 p.m. ET).

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