ANALYSIS – Atletico Ottawa faced off against HFX Wanderers on April 16th at TD Stadium in a match that ultimately ended 1-1. The match was the first of the 2023 Canadian Premier League season. The recorded attendance for the match was officially 7,039 with proceeds going to the CHEO Foundation as a part of their “Pay What You Can” home opener. That is a great way to start the Atletico Ottawa post match talking points for April 16.
— Canadian Premier League (@CPLsoccer) April 15, 2023
Three Things Learned For Atletico Ottawa Post Match Day Talking Points
Ollie Bassett Remains the Cog in Atletico Ottawa’s Attack
Last season’s Canadian Premier League MVP Ollie Bassett was the star again for Ottawa. Just before the whistle for half-time, Bassett netted his first goal on the season for Atletico Ottawa. Bassett made a nice run into the box and after receiving a pass from Jean-Aniel Assi, he was able to drag the ball to the far post and in past Yann Fillion. Under pressure from multiple Wanderers players, Bassett was able to remain calm and help Ottawa pick up a point.
Bassett’s position in the match is hard to label as he played a bit of everywhere in the final third of the pitch. Moving both out wide to provide a passing option to Assi but also playing centrally alongside Noah Verhoeven.
M-V-P M-V-P M-V-P
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) April 15, 2023
Atletico Ottawa’s Goal Against Highlights Potential System Problem
There has been much talk about what Atletico Ottawa will look like going forward this season. It was fairly well-known last year that Atletico Ottawa’s biggest weapon was the way they were able to set up defensively. The loss of Abdou Sissoko will likely hurt Atletico Ottawa significantly if they do not find a replacement over the course of the season. While Sissoko was not necessarily a standout for Ottawa last season, he was reliable in being an anchor that could play just ahead of Ottawa’s centrebacks.
In this match, Verhoeven was the only true central midfielder on the pitch. Bassett played high and even sometimes wide. This setup ultimately played a significant role in Atletico Ottawa’s goal. Ollie Bassett had committed to drifting wide to allow Samuel Salter to drop into the pocket of space. When Salter did not retain possession of the ball, it left Verhoeven as the only man in the middle park. HFX’s Aidan Daniels was able to stroll his way into the final third unfazed. With the centrebacks needing to step up to close Daniels down, it allowed Fernandez to be wide open and put one past Ingham.
Carlos Gonzalez tried to fix this by subbing on Zakaria Bahous for Gabriel Antinoro at HT. Bahous is able to play a bit more central than Antinoro. Nonetheless, he is much closer to an attacking midfielder than a defensive one. Ottawa will need to find a way to supply help for Verhoeven in the middle of the pitch.
— Aaron Nielsen (@ENBSports) April 15, 2023
Atletico Ottawa Is Putting More Faith in Youth
Ottawa had the lowest U21 minutes among “Canadian Development Players” last season with just 2114 minutes. An overwhelming majority of those minutes came from Zakaria Bahous who has aged out of the category. This match alone saw 106 U-21 minutes between Gabriel Antinoro who is just 18 and Jean-Aniel Assi, 19. Bahous, Singh, and Salter who all featured in this match are U-23 Canadians. The reliance on youth did not only come from Canadians. 2003-born Abou Sacko made his Atletico Ottawa debut while returnee Diejo Espejo went the full 90. In fact, just two starters were older than 25, Maxim Tissot and keeper Nate Ingham.
Ollie Bassett in the post-match availability spoke about the youthfulness of the squad: “With a younger group, it’s important for the players who were here last season, that know the way we want to play, help the younger guys and new players get up to speed”.
Photo Credit: Canadian Premier League
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