2023 CPL Regular Season — Match #93 Vancouver FC vs. Atlético Ottawa September 9, 2023 at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET Willoughby Community Park in Langley, British Columbia Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here
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Vancouver FC are looking to remain mathematically alive in the Canadian Premier League playoff race this weekend, as they welcome Atlético Ottawa to Langley’s Willoughby Community Park on Saturday night, in a crucial clash for both teams.
For the hosts, it’s a chance to stay alive in the playoff race, at least for another weekend, as well as an opportunity to disrupt the battle for the regular season title.
As for the guests, it’s a chance to return to winning ways after a pair of frustrating top-of-the-table clashes against Forge and Cavalry, from which they only emerged with one point. Now tied for fourth, seven points off first place, they know that they’ll need to make up points, quickly, if they’re to have any chance at repeating as regular season champions once again.
Despite that, Ottawa will enter this game feeling confident, as they’ve done well against Vancouver this season, having yet to drop points against them – the only team in the CPL not to do so.
At the same time, this is a chance for Vancouver to change that, especially knowing that they’ve got the pressure of a pending elimination sitting on the line should they not get a win.
Should they fail to win, a loss and any combination of Halifax or York picking up points eliminates them from the playoff race, as does a draw and any of a Halifax or York win, showing the importance of this game to them.
Of course, that’s not their only driving force for them in this game – they’ve also started to pivot their focus to the 2024 season, knowing that any sort of momentum that they can pick up over their final six games can carry over to that.
For an expansion team, this project was always going to be one that built up slowly over time, with year one serving as a chance to learn and grow. Therefore, while they’ll also look to battle for a playoff spot until they’re no longer mathematically able to, they’re also looking to build for the future, finishing as strong as possible while doing so.
“If we can get a victory against every team in the league, it gives us something to build on,” Vancouver’s head coach, Afshin Ghotbi, explained. “It gives us confidence, it gives us and our fans something to be happy about, especially since we’re last in the table and not getting the results that we had hoped for.”
Because of that, Ottawa will need to be wary of the threat that Vancouver can pose, as they’ve proven capable of being able to go up against anyone in the league on their day.
Especially for an Ottawa side missing several key regulars, with Sam Salter and Luke Singh suspended, Diego Espejo and Aboubakary Sacko still returning from injury, and Malcolm Shaw away on international duty, it will not be an easy task.
Safe to say, this game could prove to be quite unpredictable, making it fitting that it’ll serve as the conclusion for another crucial matchday of CPL action.
“They are still in a position where mathematically they can they can still get into the playoffs,” Ottawa’s head coach, Carlos González, made sure to stress this week. “This is probably one of their last chances, so I’m sure that they’ll play well, and that they’re going to try to do their best to win the game for their fans.”
“So we have to go there and show the best version of ourselves so that we can have the opportunity to win again.”
All CPL matches are available to stream on OneSoccer, FuboTV, or on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980.
3 THINGS TO WATCH
Ottawa hoping to continue Vancouver dominance: Through three matchups between these two teams, it’s safe to say that Ottawa has had Vancouver’s number so far this season – not only have they claimed all three wins, but they’ve dominated Vancouver in the process, winning those games by a combined score of 9-1. Not only that, but the underlying numbers further demonstrate Ottawa’s dominance in this fixture, as they’ve won the xG battle by a combined 7-1.17. Because of that, the mission is simple for Vancouver in this game – generate more chances, and then tighten up defensively. If they can do that, they’ll have a chance at being able to break their Ottawa duck, but if not, it could be another long night, much like Ottawa’s last visit to Langley, which they won 5-0. The good news, however? This is a far different Vancouver team than the one Ottawa first faced. Their performances have improved in each meeting, and they did well to really push Ottawa in their most recent match, a 3-1 loss, one where the scoreline doesn’t fully reflect the level of Vancouver’s play on the day. Because of that, they’ll look to build on that in this match, showing that they can indeed push this Ottawa side far more than they’ve been able to in the first three meetings of the year.
Vancouver looking to bounce back offensively: It was a frustrating day at the office for Vancouver in their most recent match, as they suffered a 3-0 defeat at home to Forge last weekend. In particular, it was a tough day in front of goal for Vancouver, as not only did they fail to score, but they generated just one shot on target despite having several decent looks. Because of that, it left them to get shutout after two straight games where they scored, the fourth time they’ve been shutout in the past six games. As a result, look for them to find some life again offensively. To be fair, they’ve had some players in decent form as of late up front – Gabriel Bitar has scored three goals in the last three matches, while Mikaël Cantave also found the net recently, but other than that, the offence has been dry, as Shaan Hundal hasn’t scored in nine games, while Alejandro Díaz hasn’t scored in six. Given that the latter two are seen as two of the best strikers in the league, getting them back up and running will have to be a priority for Vancouver, especially if they’re to beat this Ottawa defence.
Can Ottawa overcome key absences at the back? Yet, while there’s no doubting the credentials of this Ottawa defence, it’s worth noting that it could look a lot different than usual heading into this game. With Luke Singhs’ absence due to suspension, as well as Diego Espejo’s ongoing return from injury, that could leave them to have to shake up their defensive ranks ahead of this game. To be fair, they’ve got options who can step up in those absences – 19-year-old Tyr Walker could start after missing out on the squad in both of the last games, while MacDonald Niba can also slot in. Walker’s inclusion could also prove to be beneficial in other ways, too – Ottawa sits just 156 minutes away from the 2000 required Canadian U21 minutes they need, but having maxed out on loan minutes from CF Montréal loanee and usual starter, Jean-Aniel Assi, they’ll need those to come from the likes of Walker, Gabriel Antinoro and Zachary Roy, who could all figure into this game. Either way, one thing’s for sure, and it’s that Ottawa will need someone new to step up at the back, helping them maintain the usual standard of defending that they’ve become known for over the years, even despite the absences.
PROJECTED STARTING XIs
Vancouver FC (4-3-2-1): Irving; Chung, Romeo, White, Cameron; E Simmons, Garcia, Fry; Bitar, Díaz, Cantave
Atlético Ottawa (4-1-4-1): Ingham; Acosta, Ouimette, Walker, Iliadis; Zapater; Assi, Bassett, Verhoeven, G Dos Santos; del Campo
Atlético Ottawa wins: 3 || Vancouver FC wins: 0 || Draws: 0
July 16, 2023 – Atlético Ottawa 3-1 Vancouver FC
“I think at this stage of the season that we are at, it’s very important for us, especially at home, to entertain our fans. Obviously, if you want to just play for results, you can play very compact, and sit just in front of your goal, especially against a good team like Ottawa. But as we did in the last game against Forge, we want to attack and try to play on the front foot, try and play the attacking football that I’ve always wanted to play with our team. I think we are really eager to show the football that we want to play in the future with Vancouver FC. We’re starting to play much better between the boxes, have more possession and generate more chances, and that was the first part that I’m looking forward to seeing more of, and now the second part will be to improve ourselves in both penalty boxes, to be a little bit more ruthless. (We want to be) error-free and concentrated defensively, and in the attack be more precise, more aggressive and convert all of those possibilities into goals, because goals are what change, define and win games.” — Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi
“I think it’s going be an important match, as is every game for every club until the end of the season. Obviously, we know this is a tough team, they’re in a good run of form, and we’re aware of that. But we know that even if the results haven’t been going in our direction, we still strongly believe in our team and our staff to be able to do what we need to do to end the season, and do so in a positive way. — Vancouver FC forward Mikaël Cantave.
“Yeah, we’re mainly (focusing on) the details. Overall, I think the image that the team had against Forge and Cavalry, it was quite a good image. We faced the two big teams in the league, and we played them face-to-face, and we were capable of winning both games, it was just the details (that hurt us) at the moment. I think that this league is so equal, so we have to play all 90 minutes with full concentration so that we can control every single detail and grab points” — Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos González