Atletico Ottawa vs. Valour FC – Tactical Preview

Just two weeks into the Canadian Premier League’s fourth season, one thing is clear. The talent on the football pitch, from both a playing, and tactical perspective is extraordinarily high. So much so, that much of the punditry and commentary surrounding second-place Atletico Ottawa has continuously failed to truly nail down Gonzalez’s complex team shape in and out of possession. So much so, that Pacific FC are pulling off attacking rotations that most teams wouldn’t dare to try. As the league now heads into its third set of matches, optimism and attention over the league has never been higher. So with that, we take a tactical glance at each and every match in week three. For our final analysis, it’s second place Ottawa taking on bottom of the table Valour, after their poor defeat to Pacific. Here is our analysis!


Atletico Ottawa have caught the eye at the start of this season, as the most tactically intriguing team in the league. Carlos Gonzalez’s team achieved two back to back wins to start the campaign, playing different formations in and out of possession. In attack, Ottleti attack in a fluid but lopsided 3-5-2 formation, where Zach Verhoven (or Keven Aleman) push inside, and Maxim Tissot gallops on the overload. The lopsidedness comes as a product of Ballou Tabla holding a high position on the right side as more of a winger than wing-back, and Verhoven never truly roaming into central channels.

If you want to get really complicated, you could also describe the attacking set-up as a 3-2-5, which makes partial sense toward Malcolm Shaw’s tendency to operate in half-spaces and work the channels. In that sense, the formation becomes less lopsided on paper, even if not in practice. But within this set-up and all of Valour’s stumbling blocks at right-back against Pacific, Atletico could be set to run riot down Valour’s right-side. Phillip Dos Santos will be praying for the full fitness of Andy Baquero ahead of the match, who won our Player of the Week award for his performance against Edmonton on the opening weekend.

If it’s another makeshift right-back, the overloads of Tissot and Verhoven will cause too much chaos for Valour to handle. Rocco Romeo will also need to be on his game in stopping Malcolm Shaw from sprinting onto long passes and working the half-spaces. The 26-year-old caused the most disruption to the opposition in both of Atletico’s matches so far, and will be looking to make himself an utter nuisance up against Valour’s centre-halves. If Atletico want to involve their star striker closer to goal, they could also easily change things around with their substitutions, allowing Shaw to operate within the width of the eighteen and funnel passes that better suit his excellent aerial ability.

Shaw clearly has what it takes to operate as what we would call a ‘Channel Runner’, constantly driving in the gaps between centre-back and fullback. But moving him closer to goal and using his aerial ability as more of a target for scoring goals rather than creating chances could be an easy way Gonzalez solves the riddle on the day and changes the match for his benefit. That’s exactly what he did last Saturday in bringing off Brian Wright and utilizing Vladimir Moragrega to bounce off the big man, and it worked to serve Shaw excellently well in the final ten minutes. Finally, while Federico Pena isn’t exactly to blame for this, much of Valour’s goals so far this season have come down the left-side. If Ballou Tabla can find himself more involved in possession and strut his stuff, Ottleti may have easy mechanisms for breaking down both sides of the equation.

Valour on the other hand need to recuperate and re-capture solidity after a difficult match against Pacific. It’s easy to say that the Winnipeg-based club need to sure up their defensive structures, but the more pressing concern appears to be going forward – especially against an Atletico team that are yet to concede.

Dos Santos’ team scored two surprise goals against Pacific last weekend, but fell flat on the opening day in working the right spaces for the shot.

They missed the poise and control of Matthew Catavolo last weekend, and should look to the likes of the 19-year-old and Sean Rea to dance their way around Atletico’s stern midfield. Atletico are incredibly well drilled and organized in their defensive 4-4-2 set-up, not to mention backed up by arguably the best keeper in the league. If they’re going to break down those sturdy structures, Valour’s mavericks are going to need to be in full flow. Catavolo and Rea should look to utilize their tight dribbling and carrying ability to create space for one another as Atletico get attracted toward the ball, before sliding Moses Dyer into the penalty area to finish.

That’s a monstrous task against Ollie Bassett and Ben McKendry in Atletico’s midfield, not to mention Nathan Ingham’s stellar reaction saves in behind the back-line. As a result, Valour can look to involve Dyer earlier on in attacking moves, particularly in targeting the space in behind Maxim Tissot as he ventures forward. MacDonald Niba has done a remarkable job covering in behind for the former Forge man, but Dyer has the pace and power to give the Atletico defender a run for his money. The New Zealander already plays like a number ten in possession, and so should amplify that approach against Atletico in taking more moments to drift in-field to receive the ball in front of Atletico’s midfield, where others can then run in behind. It’s a simple rotation, but an effective one that could easily cause chaos to a remarkably robust unit.

Valour certainly have more to sort out in preparation for Sunday’s encounter, but the pressure lies more with Atletico Ottawa to keep their dream start going for another week. With the steady hands behind the ship in Nathan Ingham, we’re predicting another Atletico win. But if Andy Baquero and Matthew Catavolo regain a starting birth for this match, Valour have every chance of achieving a positive result.

So there it is! Our quick-take tactical analysis of the upcoming match between Pacific and HFX Wanderers in the Canadian Premier League. Be sure to check out more of our CPL articles, and don’t forget to check back for the final preview. Also be sure to follow on social media to never miss an update @mastermindsite! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

More previews

-> Pacific FC vs. Halifax Wanderers FC – Tactical Preview
-> Forge FC vs. FC Edmonton – Tactical Preview
-> York United vs. Cavalry FC – Tactical Preview

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