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Atletico Ottawa vs Cavalry FC. Photo: Matt Zambonin/Freestyle-Photography.

Report Card: Atlético Ottawa half-season review

By Josh Lemoine on July 19, 2022

Zakaria Bahous vs Cavalry FC. Photo: Matt Zambonin/Freestyle-Photography.

With class out until their next game on July 20, it’s time for Atlético Ottawa players to check the board, because we’ve posted their mid-season grades!

The much-improved “Ottleti” squad finds itself in second place in the CPL table. Led by strong defensive play (thanks to new coach Carlos González’s defensive system), Ottawa already has 25 points, one point shy of their total for all of 2021. Find out how we think the players—and coach—have performed at the season’s halfway point.

Carlos González (head coach) – B+

Carlos has come to Ottawa and instilled in the team a clear identity, something that had been sorely lacking. The Spanish coach has his team winning results consistently, and much more quickly than expected, now that they’re sitting near the top of the CPL table. CarGo will have to better manage the club’s domestic U21 minutes going forward, logging at least 1,384 more minutes by the end of the season or risk being disqualified from the CPL playoffs (it’s a league-wide rule to promote the development of young Canadians). While the team has bought into his defensive system, CarGo has not yet found a way to get the most out of his strikers. If he finds a solution to that, he’ll be a shoo-in for Coach of the Year.

Miguel Acosta – A

Acosta has developed into one of the most dynamic defensemen in the league, and continues to get better with every game. He leads the team in tackles (21), and has the ability to raise his game when matched up against some of the league’s best attackers. Indispensable.

Keven Alemán – D-

Alemán has not found his role in the team, and has been visibly frustrated at times. In 10 appearances, Keven averages less than 30 minutes a game, and often disappears when on the pitch. He will need to work with CarGo to help establish a role he can contribute in, or he won’t be back for 2023.

Zakaria Bahous – B-

The club’s U21 player with the most playing time, Bahous has clearly grown in confidence throughout the first 14 games, and has seen his standing within the club grow accordingly. His most recent game against Cavalry FC was arguably his best of the season, looking confident in the midfield. As he progresses, he’ll likely be an “A” student by season’s end.

Ollie Bassett – A+

Listed as the shortest man on the team at 5’6”, this Short King’s stature in the league has also grown immensely. An early front-runner for Player of the Year, Bassett leads the team in goals (4), including incredible free-kick goals. It’s clear on the pitch that the team looks to him for leadership on the attack (maybe to a fault). He’s a coach’s dream.

Drew Beckie – B

Speaking of leadership, team captain Drew Beckie is the heart of the squad, and the undisputed leader of Ottawa’s defensive core. When he’s been available, Drew leads a full-team defensive effort that has seen Ottleti concede the second fewest number of goals so far (14) and earn the most clean sheets (6). Beckie has had problems with cards at times this season, which made him unavailable for several games. He has rarely been carded throughout his career previously, so we’re hoping this new problem with cards is done, and he’ll be fully available to lead the squad on a championship run.

José da Cunha – F

Just 110 minutes played so far over two starts, including the 6-1 drubbing by Valour FC. Da Cunha has simply has not looked ready to compete at the CPL level. With the U21 minutes rule looming over the team with every passing game, we expect da Cuhna will see a return to the field sooner rather than later. Hopefully his development has been progressing out of sight from fans and he’ll be a contributor to the team upon his return, not a detriment.

Diego Espejo – A-

This young Spaniard, on loan from parent club Atlético de Madrid, has been a revelation this season. Only 19, Diego has been a mainstay on the backline with Beckie, playing even more minutes than the captain, and he leads the team in completed passes (611).

Carl Haworth – C+

The man who used to be known as “Mr. Fury” saw his return to Ottawa in capital colours delayed by a preseason injury, but since returning has seen his role on the squad, and his minutes,  begin grow. We’ve seen glimpses of classic Haworth racing down the right side to feed beautiful crosses into the middle, but he’ll need more time before he’s fully in-form and in sync with key players like Ballou Tabla and Bassett.

Nathan Ingham – B

Ottawa’s new starting keeper has played every minute of every game since joining the side. With 33 saves, and a league-leading 6 shutouts, there’s no doubt Ingham has been solid, if not terribly busy. He’s made most of the saves he’s been expected to make, and a few spectacular ones. While his distribution on the ground has been good, we want to see better goal kicks from him, as the team has a tendency to lose possession there.

Chris Mannella – D

With only 68 minutes played in 4 games this season, we haven’t seen much from Mannella so far in 2022. He does not appear to be favoured by CarGo, and with a healthy roster, Mannella is likely at the bottom of the midfield depth chart. Mostly used this season in shutdown scenarios, which are his specialty.

Ben McKendry – B+

A key piece of Ottawa’s midfield and defensive strategy, McKendry is a physical presence who leads by example, and trails only Acosta in most defensive stats. While prone to some over-aggressively tackling from time to time, McKendry is steady and rarely makes a mistake.

Sean Melvin – N/A

With Ingham playing every single minute so far this season, we’ve yet to see Sean on the field. A keeper who came to Ottawa with a strong resume, it was thought he’d challenge for the starting job. We’d love to see him be given a start or two as the season goes on.

Vlad Moragrega – D

One of the major disappointments of the season has been the performance of Moragrega. On loan from sister club Atlético de San Luis, of Mexico, it was thought Vlad would be a dangerous weapon for Ottawa’s attack, but he has only managed two shots on goal all year. CarGo clearly sees something in Vlad (or maybe just doesn’t have many options at striker), as he’s appeared in every game. Strikers need to score. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be hard to justify continuing to give him minutes.

MacDonald Niba – C+

Highly touted in the off-season, many heard from coaches that Niba could become one of the league’s top defenders. Perhaps in part due to injury, that can’t be said yet of Niba, and he has shown poor decision-making at times. But, he is a physical presence on the backline with a ton of technical skill, and when healthy, is clearly one of CarGo’s preferred starters. Looking for him to elevate his game in the second half of the season.

Iván Pérez – C

A new addition to the squad, initially signed to a short-term loan but now permanent deal through the end of the season. We’ve only seen about an hour of Pérez over three appearances, but he’s been effective when called upon. Looking forward to seeing him more.

Zachary Roy – D-

Zachary has played just 19 minutes played so far after being subbed on four times, so there is little to judge him on. Currently signed to a two-year deal (with a third-year option), it’s likely the plan was always to ease him slowly into minutes, play more in the second half of the season, and play a larger role in 2023. As with da Cuhna, the squad needs Roy in the lineup to reach the U21 minimum minutes. Expect Roy on the field significantly more in the fall, especially after da Cuhna departs the team to return to Cape Breton (his university club team).

Malcolm Shaw – C+

Over three seasons he is the team’s most dangerous striker, but that isn’t saying much. Shaw leads team with shots on target (11) and this year is tied for third on the team in goals with… two. He has been the most effective man up front at creating opportunities for himself, but he hasn’t been finding the openings in the box that he needs to. Coaching is partly to blame, but it’s on to the player to improve his game.

Abdou Sissoko – C+

For a player who came to Ottawa after playing in some of the top leagues in Europe, Sissoko got off to a slow start, looking downright out of shape. Even at his best, speed is not his strength, though he’s improved over the season, significantly, and seems to see the game better than most others on the field. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s been one of Ottawa’s best decision-makers with the ball.

Ballou Tabla – B

It won’t surprise anyone to hear that Ballou Tabla is the most naturally gifted player on the roster. He has fans on the edge of their seats anytime he goes one-on-one with an opponent. Signing Tabla felt like an experiment that was either going to go well or be a disaster. Luckily, Tabla leads the team in shots (19) and assists (3), he’s gotten better as the season progresses, and looks like he’s engaged (which was never a sure thing). He’s been good through 14 games, but with his talent and experience in both MLS and with FC Barcelona’s reserve team, our expectations are higher still.

Maxim Tissot – B-

It might surprise some to hear that only Ollie Bassett has logged more minutes this season than Max Tissot. Tissot is either hot or he’s cold. No one has lost the ball more than him (which is a poor stat for a defender…), but he also leads the team in interceptions, so he does make up for his mistakes. He has a habit of getting exposed defensively by faster opposition, but his ability to move the ball forward effectively is underrated. After missing significant time the last few seasons, this is the healthiest Tissot has been since playing for Ottawa Fury FC of yesteryear. We’d love to see him find a groove and take his game back to its highest level.

Zach Verhoven – C

Zach Verhoven would have played more minutes by now if not for a bit of injury trouble, but does have two goals to his name. Verhoven strung a few strong performances together for a few matches, but has otherwise struggled to find his place and role on the roster. Zach needs to find some consistency, but has the potential to be one of the team’s most dangerous players in the second half of the season.

Brian Wright – C-

Despite three goals in 14 games, Brian Wright has otherwise been ineffective on the attack. This is disappointing, since the player has tools to be a force in this league. His finishing has been a source of frustration for fans during his time with Ottawa, but we want to see Wright be more of a frustrating, physical presence for opposition defenders and create more space for himself. The ability is there for all to see.

Class is back in session this Wednesday, July 20, when Atlético Ottawa play against Valour FC at TD Place. Whose grades will improve and whose will fall by the end of the season? And will there be championship hardware in the team’s future? Don’t forget to get your tickets and be part of the push for the Canadian Premier League playoffs!