Atlético Ottawa and Winnipeg-based side Valour FC were originally supposed to meet on July 17th, but thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Ottawa locker room, the match was postponed until Wednesday night. When the two clubs finally hit the field at TD Place in front of 2,571 fans, two penalties in the opening 15 minutes of the game decided the outcome, with each team settling for a single point after a 1-1 draw.
While Ottawa entered the game looking to bring themselves level with Cavalry FC in the table for first place with a full three points, they were instead only able to match Pacific FC with 26 points for second in the table. Atlético does have a game in hand over the Vancouver Island outfit, but they could have done better. On the other side of the same coin, however, it easily could have been less for Ottawa, but their keeper Nathan Ingham made a series of critical saves in the second half.
“I think we had two faces of the game,” said Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos González. “If you look at the last few minutes, of course, we had plenty of chances to win the game. In some ways, I feel like this point isn’t so much today, but on the other hand, we have to have the perspective of the preparation for this game, it has been so tough. It has been a crazy 10 days, and the reality is that the team has done a big effort.”
With everything taken into consideration, from Valour’s golden opportunities in the middle of the second half, Ottawa’s great chance to win the game right at the end, and the COVID-19 issues facing Atlético over the course of the week, González took a wide approach to the game. Sure, it could have been more, and it could have been less, but no ground was lost in the table.
“At the end of the day, you maintain the distance with Valour, and they are going to be a team that plays for the playoffs,” González said. “We passed through this terrible week, and now we have another game and another opportunity to win three points.”
Ottawa’s lone goal of the match came on a penalty in the 15th minute, courtesy of forward Vladimir Moragrega. Moragrega, who is on loan to Ottawa from Atlético de San Luis of Liga MX, has played 486 minutes in 15 matches this season, and notched his first career goal in his Canadian Premier League career on Wednesday night.
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“I am very pleased for him,” González said. “I think that he has done a great job in the last few games, he’s always adding something to the team, and it’s true that he was needing this goal. He needed it, because strikers and forward players live off of this feeling, and now he has it, so we are pleased about that.”
Now 15 games into the season, at roughly the halfway point, González is happy with where his team is. Never before has Ottawa finished higher than seventh in the table since being added as an expansion team during the 2020 bubble season, but they are well on their way to changing that, and making the playoffs.
“Everyone has given things to the team,” said González. “I am grateful, because they are doing a very good job every single day. They have a great mentality, they trust in the team’s identity, and they are starting to feel that they are a powerful team. Today I felt that there were things to improve, of course, but the team is growing.”
Their next game comes on Sunday against seventh-place York United, and while that has previously been a fixture you would pencil in a ‘W’ for, the Nine Stripes are coming off a win over league-leaders Cavalry, and González isn’t planning on taking them lightly.
“We have to grab the things that we can grab from this game and learn from them,” González said. “We saw York have a great match [beating Cavalry 1-0 on Tuesday], and we are going to have a tough game over there. We have to be prepared in the best way in three days.”
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