As the 2021 Canadian Premier League (CPL) season nears the end, Atlético Ottawa are quickly running out of runway to move up the standings. With an emotional victory on Saturday afternoon, though, there might be enough time left for the league’s newest team to land in a playoff position.
Under blue skies at TD Place, Atlético Ottawa (4-5-11) arrived home searching for redemption following a matchup with Pacific FC on Sept. 19. that saw them lose a one-goal lead in the 86th minute. For Cavalry FC (9-5-5), after dropping three straight matches, including their Canadian Championship Quarterfinal matchup to Pacific FC on Sept. 19, it was redemption on their minds as well.
Interestingly, already entering the game without Team of the Week recipient, former UBC Thunderbird Zack Verhoven, who was off for yellow card accumulation, head coach Mista opted to start a lineup with none of the players loaned to Ottawa from Atlético Madrid. Meaning Verhoven’s fellow Team of the Week recipient Alberto Soto also began the afternoon and subsequently ended it on the Atlético bench.
Before the match, Atlético Ottawa honoured Ben Fisk, their former captain who made his first start at TD Place but as a member of Cavalry FC. When the game kicked off, though, all eyes turned to Drew Beckie. The 30-year-old, wearing the captain band for Ottawa, made his return after missing six games due to COVID-19 heart complications and with just two minutes off the clock, caught a Brian Wright rebound and buried his first goal of the season.
Beckie’s sister Janine, a gold medallist with Team Canada women’s soccer, congratulated her older brother on Twitter.
Post-game Ottawa head coach Mista expressed admiration for Beckie and what he brought that was missing from the Atlético lineup. “Drew, I think is the best example for the guy we need and we want, said Mista. “when Drew plays, the team has a different character.”
A quick response came from Cavalry in the 18th minute, when former Mount Royal Cougars commit Victor Loturi picked up a Nyal Higgins misplayed header and buried it past Powley to knot the game at one. “I saw the defender, he wasn’t going to make good contact on the header, so I just guessed, hit it nicely, and luckily it went in,” said Loturi.
Despite his young former first-round draft pick scoring, it was a frustrating afternoon for Calvary head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. who saw his team’s strong performance go to waste. “That was probably one of the most dominant losing performances I’ve ever been a part of,” said Wheeldon Jr.
Cavalry dominated possession 69 per cent to 31 per cent but was unable to solve Dylon Powley, and after keeper Marco Carducci took a yellow card for charging, saw Malcolm Shaw bury a penalty kick in the 39th minute to give Ottawa a 2-1 lead at half-time.
Brian Wright delivered for Ottawa in the 72nd minute, breaking between two Calgary defenders to bury his fourth of the season. It was keeper Dylon Powley though, who sealed the win for Atlético. With Sergio Camargo stepping to the penalty spot in the 75th minute, Powley made a pair of saves to keep the Ottawa lead at two goals that they held until the final whistle.
The win moved Ottawa to 2-3-1 at TD Place, and post-game, Mista recognized how being in front of home fans has invigorated his roster, “TD Place is a special feeling for us, the team knows, we’ve only lost one game here because we are so much stronger here,” said Mista.
For Drew Beckie, returning to the pitch was “not the prettiest, but we got the result,” according to the eleven-year veteran. Still, he can see the long-term growth for Atlético Ottawa no matter the result this season.
“We’re fighting teams that have been together for years; we’re right there on the same path.”