OTTAWA, ON – They say old habits die hard. For Atlético Ottawa on Saturday, it was falling back into old habits that cost them another three points and another chance to move forward up the Canadian Premier League standings.
Under the sunny afternoon skies at TD Place, the Halifax Wanderers (5-6-6) rolled into town, coming off a dramatic 3-3 draw against York United on Monday. Atlético Ottawa (3-4-10) entered the matchup, the final one of their four-game homestand, hoping to find three points after a pair of draws vs Halifax and York and a 1-0 loss this past Wednesday to Forge FC.
It was a smaller U SPORTS contingent on the pitch this afternoon for Ottawa. Only former UBC Thunderbird Zach Verhoven drew into the starting lineup for Atlético while former York Lion Matthew Arnone and future MacEwan Griffin Jaeden Mercure held spots on the bench. For the Wanderers, it was a group of three as well, with Carleton Ravens star Stefan Karjaovanovic and former Montreal Carabin Pierre Lamothe in the starting lineup and longtime Saint Mary’s goalie Christian Oxner on the bench for Halifax
The afternoon began with a bang for Ottawa. Ben McKendry split the Halifax defenders in close allowed Ottawa to get a pair of tight shots on 19-year Wanderers keeper Keiran Baskett. In January, Baskett signed to his first professional deal and made his Canadian Premier League debut on Saturday, making one save on the afternoon. After Christian Oxner struggled against York, Head Coach Stephen Hart opted to give the rookie keeper the start, and he was not disappointed. “He looked pretty composed in goal,” Hart said, “I thought he commanded his box pretty well.”
Just sixteen minutes in, though, Karjaovanovic was bodied hard in the Atletico box and drew another penalty kick against Ottawa, their ninth conceded penalty of the season. João Morelli stepped into the box for Halifax and made no mistake, burying one past Dylon Powley to give Halifax the 1-0 lead.
The Wanderers held the lead into halftime, but just seven minutes into the second half, Malcolm Shaw picked up a pass from Viti Martinez at the top of the box and buried it past Keiran Baskett to knot the game at 1-1. It was Shaw’s 7th goal of the season for Atlético and, for the third time in four games, a second-half goal from him that tied the game for Ottawa.
All signs pointed to the final score being a draw until the 88th minute when in-game substitute Samuel Salter raced up the left side and fed Morelli in the box, who made no mistake past Dylon Powley to give the Wanderers the 2-1 lead, which they held for the victory
For Mista, the results have to feel like déjà vu for his side. The coach once again watched his team give up another early penalty, but fight back and for long stretches on the field at TD Place dominate the Wanderers. Yet as the final whistle blew the reward for their effort was not even the single point of a draw “We don’t know if we can do anything else more to win the game,” Mista said, “we created, we had possession, we recovered the ball very soon, but the problem is the luck is not with us and I don’t know.”
With a pair of goals on the match, João Morelli became the first person in the 2021 Canadian Premier League season to hit 11 goals, but despite his strong season the goal is still clear for him and the rest of his teammates “I’ve been hitting the net and I’m happy with that but the main thing is winning and we achieved that today” Morelli said.
For the six representatives from U SPORTS it was a relatively quiet match. Karjaovanovic had the most memorable moment for his side, drawing the penalty kick that João Morelli was able to bury. Lamothe, Oxner, Arnone and Mercure spent the afternoon on the bench for their sides while Zack Verhoven created a pair of chances and had two tackles for Atletico.
The Canadian Premier League season rolls on with Halifax and Ottawa facing off against York United FC this week. Ottawa heads down the 401 for the next matchup of the “ONRoute-ico” in a Tuesday night matchup at 7:00 pm at York Lions Stadium. Meanwhile, Halifax has the week off before travelling to York for a 2:00 pm matchup on Saturday.
Cover Photo Credit: Atlético Ottawa fans cheer on their team at TD Place (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/CPL)