Atlético’s Season, Sam Salter’s Form on Upswing

Atlético’s Season, Sam Salter’s Form on Upswing

Atlético Ottawa still has plenty of work left in their remaining 18 games to earn a playoff berth, but after winning their second-consecutive game with a 1-0 win over Vancouver FC, things seem to be back on the rails a little bit.

On Saturday afternoon, Atléti came out of the locker room ready to rock, quickly taking hold of the contest, scoring the game-winning goal in the ninth minute. Their domination over the Eagles is well documented, firing 17 shots toward Callum Irving in the Vancouver goal, with five of them requiring action from the former Ottawa Fury keeper.

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At the defensive end of the pitch, Ottawa defended with pride, holding Vancouver to just a single shot on target. The 1-0 scoreline made things appear much closer than it was, but Ottawa’s performance highlights how important three points were.

“It was a win that we needed to start [stacking wins],” Atlético head coach Carlos Gonzalez said. “We had quite a good first half, but in the second half, we could have done things better.”

Carlos Gonzalez, head coach of Atlético Ottawa – Matt Zambonin / Freestyle Photography

Staring down the threat of a loss that would have sent them to the bottom of the table, the week’s training beforehand was critical for Ottawa to set the standard.

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“We increased the self-demanding of everyone during the week,” Gonzalez said. “We acknowledged that we are doing plenty of good things, but we know we haven’t been doing enough in certain moments. We weren’t competing as we should, and making small mistakes in every game that has been costing us the final result. It was a week of tension, demands, and hard work, and everyone knew it was an important game we had to win.”

Atlético’s lone goal on the afternoon came courtesy of Sam Salter, who has come below the high bar set for him after becoming the league’s first internal transfer. In 2022 with the HFX Wanderers, Salter scored 11 goals, and with the hope that he could become Ottawa’s top striker on the minds of most fans, his start to the season was less than ideal.


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Before Saturday, his lone goal of the season had come in the 5-0 thumping of Vancouver in May, and as his struggles became more consistent, he found himself on the bench. Gonzalez never gave up on the 22-year-old, still hoping to help him reach his high potential.

“We’ve been working on it for weeks,” Gonzalez said. “We were getting to a point where we knew we would need him. I’m very happy, because the visible thing is that he scored a goal, but the invisible things are there. The hard work he put in on the field, the work offensively to be a target, and the work defensively to pick his moments. He had a complete game.”

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The pressure on Salter’s shoulders – despite the external noise and hype – has been completely self-inflicted. He believes in himself, and knows what he is capable of, but admits there were times when he was too hard on himself.

“It’s more the pressure I put on myself,” Salter admitted. “At first, things weren’t going that well, and I was maybe putting too much pressure on myself, but now I’m feeling good and training well.”

Sam Salter, Atlético Ottawa – Matt Zambonin / Freestyle Photography

It has taken some time for Salter to feel completely comfortable in his new surroundings. His hope – now that things are going a little smoother now – is to continue building.

“I’ve been adjusting well thus far, and I’m happy it showed in my performance,” Salter said. “It takes time, and it’s different for every player, but I’m happy that it’s going well, and I want to keep going.”

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Back-to-back wins, and Salter finding his form: both things that Gonzalez is hoping can be the foundation for a turnaround.

“For Sam and the whole team, we should embrace these wins at home with our fans,” Gonzalez said. “We have to give them value, because we have won three games. We have to use them as confidence and get into a better dynamic.”

“Every time you win, you get nearer to your next win. I hope that the team gets a little bit fresher in the next few days when we come back to training, and we now have two games in a row quite tight together against Forge and Pacific, so we have to maintain this performance.”


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