The 2023 CPL season kicked off in Ottawa today. With Atletico Ottawa battling it out with Halifax Wanderers for a 1-1 draw in front of a large crowd of over 7,000 people at TD Place. The large crowd was rewarded with unseasonably warm weather and a good game of footy.
This is Atletico’s second “real season” in the league and the team looks to repeat what it did in 2022 winning the regular season championship and coming within 90 minutes of winning the North Star Shield and pulling off the double.
The game started out fairly evenly matched with both sides knocking off a couple of shots before Halifax found the back of the net in the 16th minute of play. Zachary Fernandez slotted the ball into the back of the net with a ball into the bottom left corner of the net. Nathan Ingham diving to his left could not do anything as he helplessly watched the ball roll across the line.
The rest of the half resulted in Ottawa looking for an equalizing goal and Halifax trying desperately to stop that from happening. Unfortunately for Halifax Ottawa was able to find one in the dying second of the first half courtesy of no other than the league MVP Ollie Bassett.
Bassett was able to kick the ball from just outside the six-yard line into the bottom left corner of the net. The goalie for Halifax tried to stop the ball but was unfortunately unable to achieve the desired result.
The second half was fairly uneventful with both teams trying to get the winning goal. The play ebbed and flowed from one side to the other with both teams having a couple chanced on the net. Ottawa was unlucky with two possible penalties not called due to poor reffing (but what else is new in the CPL?).
The game ended in a 1-1 draw. Both teams will look to achieve a different result when they meet on Wednesday at York Lions Stadium in the first round of the Canadian Championship.
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Ottawa’s starting lineup featured six new players and only five returning players from last year. With the team having a bunch of new faces in the lineup with was noticeable that they had not worked out all of their kinks yet.
The player that showed the most potential was Jean-Aniel Assi who is on loan from Montreal. He had a couple of crosses into the box that could have been deadly if placed better but he showed off some nice footwork and pace. He isn’t the Ballou Tabla replacement everyone was hoping for but the raw talent was there, it just needs some refinement.
The player that was invisible for most of the match was Sam Salter. He just did not really do anything notable. He didn’t make any good runs or passes or shots at all. He was also the lowest-ranked player on Fotmob at a low 5.9. Being the first intra-league singing for a fee I think the fans inside TD Place expected more from him. Hopefully, he will be able to meet those expectations at some point this season.
The standout player was a tie between MVP Ollie Bassett and Diego Espejo. Bassett was the obvious choice here due to scoring the goal and bossing the midfield. Espejo on the other hand was solid at the back line and won all of his aerial this game. Him and Luke Singh made for a good pair on the back line and it will be interesting to see if the coach keeps them together or slots in Karl Ouimette for that veteran voice on the backline.
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