How things have changed for the soccer community in the nation’s capital.
Atlético Ottawa is in the midst of their first post-season campaign, and after never finishing higher than seventh in the CPL table, they suddenly look likely to play for a championship. The regular season champions ventured to Victoria for the first leg in their semi-final matchup with Pacific last weekend, and despite the Vancouver Islanders controlling the ball 65 percent of the time, it was Ottawa who capitalized on their chances.
Ottawa took a 2-0 lead in the semi-final thanks to goals from Ballou Tabla, and a deflected effort from Zach Verhoven in added time. Now, the mission for Atlético is simple; hold on, and earn a chance to play for a championship next weekend.
Headed back to TD Place with the lead, it’s clear that all of the pressure is on Ottawa. They took care of business in the first leg, and it’s expected that they will come back, and defend their own turf. For many, that could be unsettling though, but for Atlético and Carlos Gonzalez, the result in the first game isn’t changing their mindset.
“We always approach games in the same way, trying to do our best appointment and win the game,” Gonzalez said. “We have to forget the result out there and to try and win again.”
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A two-goal lead and home-field advantage certainly don’t guarantee anything for Atlético, and matters will only be complicated in the absence of Diego Espejo, who has been given a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation, earning his eighth booking in the first leg. The good news for Ottawa, however, is captain Drew Beckie will likely draw into the starting 11 without Espejo, leaving them with a more than capable replacement.
It’s critical for Atlético that they don’t allow a goal in the early going of this contest. They also must not sit back and try to sit on the lead the whole game, one mistake could be costly, and giving the reigning champions confidence would be a problem for the home side.
We don’t know how this is going to end, but we do know Pacific will throw absolutely everything they have at Ottawa, and the pressure is firmly on the shoulders of Atlético to pull this off.
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