2023 CPL Regular Season — Match #19
Vancouver FC vs. Atlético Ottawa
May 13, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. PT//9:30 p.m. ET
Langley Events Centre in Langley, British Columbia
Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here
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The Canadian Premier League’s two expansion teams will meet for the first time on Saturday, as the league’s most recent entrant Vancouver FC host Atlético Ottawa at the Langley Events Centre.
Vancouver opened up the brand new stadium for the first time last weekend in front of a fantastic crowd and atmosphere, and despite going down to 10 men after key central defender Rocco Romeo was sent off in the 29th minute, they secured an impressive 1-1 draw with Cavalry FC.
“They are a team that is difficult to break down, they don’t concede easily, and they haven’t had a game in which their opponents have been comfortable,” said Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos González. “With 11 players, or even with 10 players. It is not going to be an easy game with a long trip, with a long week in our legs. We have to be focused, we have to be controlling the details and we have to give our best version so that we can grab the three points.”
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The clubs have inverse form heading into this match, as Vancouver FC haven’t lost in their last three matches, while Atlético Ottawa has suffered three straight defeats in all competitions. Ottawa are still looking for their first CPL win this season, and last time out were soundly beaten by Pacific FC 4-1 at home.
There were positive signs in how Atleti responded midweek in the Canadian Championship, however. An organized and hardworking Ottawa side held off Forge for 76 minutes, the longest they have gone without conceding this season, before a moment of magic from Kyle Bekker. In fact, it was the first time this season that they have gone into halftime without allowing a goal.
What was even more impressive was the response after the goal, as Ottawa’s high press conjured a late penalty and equalizer to send the match to penalties. The history books will show another loss as Ottawa couldn’t get the job done from the spot, but the play on the field showed a team far closer to the one that was 2022 regular season champions.
Atlético Ottawa are also getting healthier, with Zachary Roy returning to full training. But with the travel concerns, it is unlikely this is the weekend any of Nate Ingham, Carl Haworth or Max Tissot are re-introduced into the squad.
The home side, meanwhile, will be without key central defender Rocco Romeo with his suspension being upheld after a 29th-minute sending-off in the club’s home opener. Vancouver, it should be noted, did not have a midweek fixture, and having spent the week at home will certainly be the more rested of the two sides heading into this fixture.
All CPL matches are available to stream on OneSoccer, FuboTV, or on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980. Tous les matchs de l’Atlético Ottawa sont disponibles en français sur OneSoccer.
3 THINGS TO WATCH
- Vancouver looking to show attacking identity at home: While the results so far have been impressive for Vancouver FC, coach Afshin Ghotbi believes his side can still reach another level, especially offensively. He said that four matches away from home, as well as being down to 10 men earlier in their home opener has required a more cautious approach from his group to start the season. Against Ottawa, however, a side known for, and comfortable, sitting back and absorbing pressure, Ghotbi is hoping this is a good opportunity for his group to show that they can dictate matches. “We’ve trained a lot from the beginning about how can we construct an attacking organization that allows us to not only maintain possession but have the ball speed necessary to create the openings, to play between lines, to come into danger areas, and score,” he told media.
- Atlético Ottawa believes they are closing in on the best version of themselves: Despite a rocky start to the 2023 season for the defending regular season champions, González says he’s someone who likes to focus on the positives as much as possible, and there were certainly many of those Tuesday night in Hamilton. A few different lineup changes were important in this, like MacDonald Niba’s excellent performance at fullback, which allowed Aboubakary Sacko to step forward and add solidity to the midfield. González says, however, the biggest shift going into the game he believes was the team’s mentality as they fought until the bitter end in one of the league’s toughest environments. “I think the team showed a very different image last Tuesday from the game before, individually, collectively,” he told media this week. “I think that we were reflected better on the field”.
- Vancouver FC needs to find defensive balance without Romeo: Vancouver FC will have to make do without one of its most important players this weekend, as prior to being sent off in the 29th minute, central defender Rocco Romeo had played every minute for the expansion side. How they replace him remains a big question heading into this match. Vancouver’s defensive shape and solidity have been a big key to their success this season. Against Cavalry they shifted Ibrahim Bakare, who is naturally a centre-back anyway, back into the middle, but does that mean Kadin Chung returns to his traditional position of fullback, despite putting in some fantastic shifts in the midfield? These are big questions for Ghotbi to answer. “Rocco is a great professional, he is a fantastic player, maybe one of the best central defenders in the league,” said Ghotbi. “He is going to be a big loss for us. But I do believe we have enough depth and quality to manage the games without him.”
PROJECTED STARTING XIs
Vancouver FC (4-3-3): Irving; Chung, Bakare, Martinez, Crawford; Zadeh, Simmons, Bitar; Sandoval, Hundal, Kinani
Atlético Ottawa (4-5-1): Melvin; Acosta, Espejo, Singh, Niba; Assi, Sacko, Bassett, Verhoeven, dos Santos; Shaw
First meeting between the two sides.
“We are facing a team that has lost three games in a row, they are bottom of the table. They were finalists last year, obviously, there is a lot of pride and quality in that group. So I think it is going to be even a much tougher team to play against, because they don’t want to sit in the cellar, they want to get results…we have to bring speed to the game, we have to bring tempo to the game, we have play on our front foot, we have to be dangerous, we have to be proactive in trying to dictate the speed and control of the game.” — Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi
“We are taking the correct steps. We [showed] them the last game against probably the best team in the CPL, at their home. I think we have a lot of things in which we can be positive and think on the future.” — Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos González