Cavalry FC 1-3 Atlético Ottawa – CPL Match #101 – Canadian Premier League

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Final Result: Cavalry FC 1-3 Atlético Ottawa
Scorers: Escalante (PK) 79′; Tabla 4′, Wright 54′, Shaw 86′
Game of the season 2022: 101
CPL Match: 351


Match in a minute or less

Atlético Ottawa made it to the Canadian Premier League play-offs for the first time in their history after beating Cavalry FC 3-1 at Spruce Meadows. They are also the first club in the league to secure a place in this year’s post-season.

A goal from season contender Ballou Tabla opened up the visitors just four minutes into the game, while Brian Wright and Malcolm Shaw also scored in the second half to put the goal out of reach. José Escalante scored the Cavalry’s only goal from the penalty spot.

The win also extends Ottawa’s lead at the top of the table to four points. With two games remaining, they appear to be the favorites to also take home the league’s regular-season title.


Three observations

Atlético Ottawa secure a place in the playoffs for the first time in club history

There hasn’t been a better story in the Canadian Premier League in 2022. The ‘worst-to-first’ storyline may not be fully official yet, but Atlético Ottawa’s improvement over the previous year has been nothing short of remarkable as it unfolds make playoffs for the first time in club history.

Saturday’s playoff victory resulted from another massive away result for Atleti. It was their seventh away win of the season, one more than the six they had in the league all of last year. They also now have 25 street points, down just one short of their 2021 total of 26.

After several months of hard work to reshape this side on and off the pitch, tonight was a moment to celebrate for the club from top to bottom.

“It’s a milestone for the club so I’m very proud and very honored to be part of the team we’ve been working on for the past seven months to complete this challenge for the first time [our] History,” said Atlético coach Carlos González after the game. “I think it’s so important for the club, they’ve struggled, had tough seasons before and I think everyone deserves that, the players, the people from Madrid who’ve worked really hard this year and of course the fans . We didn’t have them here today, but they’ve been pushing all season and the whole city has been supporting us. So we are very proud and happy for them.”

After the final whistle, González passionately shared what he thinks made his club so special this season.

“The secret is the attitude, the mentality, the commitment of the players,” he said. “That’s how they believe in what we do. I think this is the secret from day to day. Be consistent in your work and that’s it, and good talent, of course, because nothing works without good talent.”

However, one hurdle remains for Atleti. They have yet to meet the Canadian Premier League’s U-21 minute quota to qualify for the postseason. Each club must reach 2,000 minutes for domestic players under the age of 21. Ottawa is currently at 1,780 with two games remaining.

The cavalry feel deja vu after another ‘amazing’ loss to Ottawa

When these two teams last met, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said he was “stunned” at how his team lost, particularly by a 3-0 lead, despite controlling almost every other statistical category in that game have.

A month later, it was another seemingly dominant performance by Cavalry against Atléti at Spruce Meadows… and another one-sided loss. The hosts were outplayed 3-1 by Ottawa despite 20 shot attempts, 0.53 expected goals in open play, 68.7 percent possession and 28 touches in the box.

“It feels like déjà vu that I’m in this bad loop and I’m hoping to wake up in a minute,” Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said, later adding, “It’s just bad déjà vu, we can play as much and play around the ball as we want, but if we don’t defend like we mean to and we don’t cut them up like we can, then we don’t deserve three points.

Cavalry was able to consistently get the ball wide, giving them clear priority throughout the game as full-backs Roberto Alarcón and José Escalante bombed forwards. But once the ball reached those positions, the service wasn’t good enough, and what’s more, there were often too few goals in the penalty area other than Joe Mason.

Aside from some brilliant individual moments from Ali Musse, including winning the penalty that led to the hosts’ only goal, Cavalry rarely had other attacking ideas. They fired a staggering 44 crosses into the cavalry box over the course of 90 minutes, almost a cross every two minutes. The side, praised for their set plays earlier in the season, also won 14 corners, none of which they were able to convert.

“We had 44 crosses and we can’t score, I don’t know how many corners and we can’t score,” cavalry captain Mason Trafford said. “Again, you would normally think that in a game like this, someone is going to put the ball in the net. We finally did it with a penalty but it’s too little too late. But with statistics like that we need goals, you have to score when you have 44 crosses, I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s just that.”

The chart below shows all of Cavalry’s crosses from open play, who somehow couldn’t find a goal from open play despite consistently sending the ball into dangerous areas.

Courtesy Opta

Ultimately, the difference in that game was that Ottawa was much more clinical with its few chances. As the postseason approaches, there will be questions as to whether or not Cavalry have enough difference makers in their lineup to win close games like this.

Ballou Tabla scores potential goal of the season to open top scorer for Ottawa

Some truly spectacular goals were scored in the Canadian Premier League in 2022. But just four minutes into the competition on Saturday, Ottawa’s Ballou Tabla topped them all.

His first overhead volley from the top of the box was as commanding as it was important, setting the tone for the most important result in the club’s history.

It was the culmination of an excellent debut season for Tabla in the Canadian Premier League. While his six goals and four assists, while respectable, aren’t necessarily leaps and bounds, it was the willingness to work hard within the Ottawa system to help them succeed that was most impressive. But a player of his talent is always capable of a few magical moments.

“Obviously we know what Ballou is capable of, the league, people in the league know Ballou so I’m happy for him that he scored that goal,” Wright said after the game. “Obviously it was an incredible goal and it was nice to score that early goal in the game too. Hats off to him, I’m sure we’ll see it at Sportscentre this week.”

After Ollie Bassett scored an olimpico last week, González said he was thrilled to see his players’ confidence in those big moments.

“We had a lot of nice goals, that’s true,” said González. “The strikers have great talent, we saw it in the training sessions. And sometimes it’s because of that attitude that they feel good about certain moments and are able to try those kinds of things [finishes]. I’m very happy for Ballou today.”


CanPL.ca Playear of the game

Ballou Tabla, Atlético Ottawa

It was truly a team effort that secured the result for Ottawa, but Ballou Tabla’s heroism deserves a mention. In addition to his spectacular goal, he nailed 92 percent of his passes, dribbled twice and won four of his five tackles.

What’s next?

Cavalry are back home to take on another playoff hopeful when they take on Valor on Sunday, October 2 at 3:30pm ET / 1:30pm MT. Atlético Ottawa have another difficult road trip ahead of them as they travel to Halifax on Saturday, October 1 (2:00pm ET) to face Wanderers.

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