Atlético Ottawa 0-1 Pacific FC – CPL Game #20 – Canadian Premier League


Result: Atlético Ottawa 0-1 Pacific FC
Scorers: Diaz 72′
Game of the 2022 season: 20th
CPL Match: 271

Match in a minute or less

Pacific FC ended their winless and goalless streak with a 1-0 away win over Atlético Ottawa thanks to a goal from top scorer Alejandro Diaz. But it was Callum Irving who earned all the headlines after the best goalkeeping performance of the 2022 season to thwart an impressive Ottawa attack.

Atléti will wonder why they failed to score in this game after unleashing 23 shot attempts, 17 of which went into the penalty area, at Irving’s net. The win is Pacific’s first this season outside of Starlight Stadium.

Three observations

Callum Irving helps Pacific weather late storm

It will be the lasting image of tonight’s game: Atlético players with their hands on their heads as wave after wave of attacks ended in the hands of Pacific goalkeeper Callum Irving.

Irving made a staggering 10 saves during the game, three of which were deemed “great chances.” It was his second clean sheet of the season and tied Ottawa goaltender Nate Ingham for the standings lead in that category.

“He was excellent, that gives us a lot of confidence and it will give him a lot of confidence going forward,” said Pacific head coach James Merriman. This is the first time he’s really been tested across all of our games, but he’s been excellent.”

Irving was quick to point out that clean sheets are always primarily a team statistic and praised the work of the back line in front of him, particularly centre-backs Amer Didic and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère.

“The two guys in front of me today were fantastic Amer, I can’t count how many headers he won, even in difficult situations, he threw his body around, same goes for Thomas,” Irving said. “It’s always a team effort. ”

According to statistics, Didic actually only won two header goals during the match, while Meilleur-Giguère won four. But both were still excellent defensively, with Didic coming up with a crucial block against Malcolm Shaw late in the game to save the clean sheet.

The outstanding performance was made even more special by the fact that Irving played professionally in the city for three seasons with the Ottawa Fury.

“This was a place I loved playing for three years, loved playing in front of the fans for three years and still have a lot of friends here. So I was really looking forward to this game when I saw the schedule come out,” Irving said, later adding, “It’s a place I love to come to and I’m even happier to have been able to win here to.”

Atlético Ottawa builds up Ballou’s attack

After scoring his first Canadian Premier League goal last weekend, Ballou Tabla looked confident in today’s game. Rather than starting far right, as he’s had most of the time for Atléti this season, Tabla was given more of a free role at the top alongside Brian Wright.

In place of Tabla, Carlos Gonzalez handed 20-year-old Zakaria Bahous his first start. Tabla and Bahous combined well on the right flank to give Pacific full-back Jordan Haynes plenty of work, often doubling him up in attack. Malcolm Shaw, who has played alongside Wright at the front for most of this season, switched to the left touchline of midfield for this game.

“We saw some positive qualities from the last game we used him openly until the end of this game. We wanted to see if he could push that a bit more and see what would come of it,” said Atlético Ottawa assistant coach Kwesi Loney. “Today you saw some of the results and you saw what he’s capable of in this role and this position, so for us today it was really positive for him.”

Tabla’s heatmap throughout the game shows how much he was moving in the offensive third, popping up in various areas where he could cause problems with the Pacific defense.

Ballou Tabla heat map Image courtesy of: Press Box Live

It felt like the only thing Tabla couldn’t do over the course of 90 minutes was finding the back of the net. He had three created chances, three shots on target, two successful dribbles and seven touches in the Pacific box. He also won three fouls, further extending his lead in that category.

“He’s very dynamic, he moves all over the field, he finds good spaces, he takes good spaces, he creates and he’s a constant threat,” Merriman said of Tabla’s abilities. “He’s a good player, he certainly caused problems tonight.”

Pacific takes his chance while Ottawa regrets missed opportunities

One team had 2 shots on target, one had 11. Still, it’s the former, Pacific, who emerged from TD Place Stadium tonight with three points.

Ottawa absolutely peppered Irving in the net with a total of 23 shot attempts, 17 of which went into the box. But at the end of the day, while they kept putting themselves in good positions offensively, a lavish finish cost them what would have been a big result.

“We can learn that we can have a lot of chances, but if you miss and the other team only has one chance, they can score,” Tabla said after the game. “You need to [consider] We can’t let go of all the opportunities that are important to us because we don’t know if we’ll get another one. So we have to meet her.”

The chart below shows both teams’ shot attempts during the game, Pacific’s attempts at left flank, and the barrage Ottawa sent on Irving at right.

Shot attempts Atlético vs. Pacific FC (Courtesy of Press Box Live)
Shot attempts Atlético vs. Pacific FC (Courtesy of Press Box Live)

It’s worth noting that while Pacific didn’t create nearly as many chances throughout the game, they still had plenty of attacking quality. The expected number of goals was only 1.48 to 1.21 in favor of the home side.

Ottawa was visibly frustrated with the way the game was going. Their head coach Carlos Gonzalez was sent off while arguing that Diaz’s goal should have been brought back for offside. Player of the Match

Callum Irving- Pacific FC

It really doesn’t need much more explanation. With Irving, that game could have turned ugly for the defending champions, but instead they had to return to the island with their fourth win and second clean sheet of the season.

What’s next?

It’s an incredibly quick turnaround for Atlético Ottawa as they host York United at TD Place Stadium on Tuesday night (7pm ET) as part of the Canadian Championship. Pacific, on the other hand, earned a bye as a semifinalist and will not participate in this round of the competition. They are next in action on Saturday, May 14th when they host Edmonton FC at Starlight Stadium (4:00pm PT / 5:00pm MT).

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