Atlético Ottawa started the season in dominant fashion, winning their season-opener against Cavalry FC, and following that up with a win over HFX Wanderers just a week later. Sitting atop the Canadian Premiere League table, Atlético played their third home game of the season against Valour FC, suffering a catastrophic 6-1 defeat.
Last week in Toronto against York United, Atlético looked to be in good shape to return home with three points, but it wasn’t to be. With York trailing by a goal, and down a man after Cédric Toussaint was sent off, Dominick Lukasz Zator found an equalizer well into added time, breaking the hearts of Atlético. Even still, the draw showed that Atlético will fight through adversity.
“It was key to come back and show everyone that we’re not a team that was going to be pushed over and concede a lot of goals,” said midfielder Ollie Bassett. “We stuck in there [after the injuries], put in a good shift and probably deserved to win the game. Hopefully, we can build on that this weekend.”
Although their trip to York didn’t result in a loss, Atlético will be wishing they could have closed out their effort. In back-to-back games, they have been left disappointed, but their road back to the win column won’t come easily, as Pacific FC comes to town on Saturday evening. Currently, only one team stands between Ottawa and the top of the table, and that team is Pacific, only heightening the importance of their meeting on Saturday.
The challenge that will roll into Ottawa is no secret, however, it’s not something the team is shying away from.
“This is the kind of opponent that we like, good teams that come here to put us in tough situations,” said head coach Carlos González. “Our job is to put them in tough situations and I think it’s going to be a good game to play, the typical game that all players want to be involved with. It’s first place against second and that gives us a lot of motivation.”
The match will mark Pacific’s first visit to the nation’s capital after COVID-19 challenged their previously scheduled matches at TD Place. It also marks the return of some players with Ottawa connections, Jamar Dixon, Callum Irving, and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, all of whom previously played for Ottawa Fury FC.
With Ottawa just three points behind Pacific, with one fewer game played, this match is about as important as an early-season match can be. A win would see them level on points, a loss would drop them six behind, a place you don’t want to be if you can help it.
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