To the enjoyment of 5,000 fans at TD Place on Saturday, Atlético Ottawa secured their second win of the season against the Halifax Wanderers in a dominant 2-0 showing.
Atlético also finally won at home this season — the first time in 10 matches. Their last home win was a 3-2 victory over Halifax on Aug. 17, 2022.
The win improved Ottawa’s win-draw-loss record to 2-2-4 and moved the club into sixth place in the eight-team Canadian Premier League with eight points. The loss, meanwhile, sent the Wanderers to the CPL basement with six points.
In three matches against Halifax this season, Atlético has won two and tied one. Halifax are winless against Atlético in eight matches and sit bottom of the table with zero wins, six draws and two losses. It remains the only team in the league without a win this season.
Despite generating several quality scoring chances right from kickoff, Atlético wouldn’t break the deadlock until later in the match, thanks in part to a clever triple substitution by head coach Carlos González. He brought on Carl Haworth, Noah Verhoeven and Zach Verhoven to regain momentum after Halifax strung together multiple chances midway through the second half.
All three players made an instant impact on the match — including in the build-up of the first goal, according to González.
“I think that the three subs were a key moment in the game,” González said in the post-match press conference. “We were feeling a couple of minutes before that the team was dropping … and the energy wasn’t enough, and we decided to do three substitutions in a row and bring new energy to the team.”
He added: “The guys came out with appropriate energy and commitment, and they impacted the game. I think that at the end of the day this was probably the thing that changed the game in a certain moment that we were suffering a little bit.”
Midfielder Ollie Bassett opened the scoring in the 71st minute by firing home a rebound from a Malcolm Shaw shot that had been expertly blocked by Halifax keeper Yann-Alexandre Fillion.
Shaw got on the scoresheet five minutes later to double Atlético’s lead after tapping home a cross from inside the six-yard box to finish off a brilliantly executed passing play on the counterattack.
The late goals don’t paint the truest picture of Ottawa’s dominance. They controlled the game from start to finish, created more quality chances, were more clinical in the final third and were the better team despite having less of the ball (just 42-per-cent possession) thanks to some dynamic counterattacks.
Chances cracked open early for Ottawa in this match. Up-close attempts from Gianni dos Santos were stopped confidently by Fillion. Several clearances off Halifax’s goal line also helped to keep the game scoreless.
Both teams had an equal number of shots — 14 apiece — but Atlético had accuracy on their side, with eight on target compared to Halifax’s four.
‘I think that the three subs were a key moment in the game . . . The guys came out with appropriate energy and commitment, and they impacted the game. I think that at the end of the day this was probably the thing that changed the game in a certain moment that we were suffering a little bit.’— Carlos González, Atlético Ottawa head coach
But it’s what the team does with the ball that matters. Atlético forced Fillion to sprawl across his net all game with their attacks. Come the end of the second half, Bassett had whipped another cross in for Dos Santos. Any dreams of that ball crossing the goal line, however, got a rude awakening from Fillion, who once again held his ground — and the ball when the play was done.
Fillion would prove himself in this match. Stopping a far-post strike from Atlético’s Malcom Shaw was an impressive feat, but his superb save wasn’t enough. Shaw’s shot bounced clean off his hands, finding its way to the sure foot of Bassett, who faced an open net.
Atlético couldn’t be stopped at this point. Not five minutes later, they were playing chess with the ball, moving it across the pitch and between their opponents, until it reached Shaw who — like Bassett — found himself with an open goal to further his team’s lead.
Halifax had their chances, too. Not ten minutes into the second half, Wesley-Thomas Timoteo gave his teammate, Andre Jesse Rampersad, the Wanderers’ best chance of the night.
Curling the ball in from a free kick outside the box, it had eyes only for Rampersad. He had a point-blank shot from only a few yards out, but was met with a superb save by Atlético keeper Sean Melvin.
If that ball had gone in, it would have been a different game.
Atlético will look to begin a much-needed win streak on Friday, June 9 when they travel to Toronto to play third-place York United (4-1-4). Ottawa returns home to play Vancouver FC — currently in 7th place with a 1-4-3 record — on Saturday, June 17.