Match Analysis — Pacific FC and Atlético Ottawa neutralize each other in scoreless first leg

Final Score: Pacific FC 0-0 Atlético Ottawa
Goalscorers: None
2024 TELUS Canadian Championship — Quarter-Final (Leg 1)

Match in a minute or less

This Canadian Championship quarter-final tie will have to be settled in Langford, as Atlético Ottawa and Pacific FC played to a fairly uneventful 0-0 first-leg draw in the nation’s capital on Wednesday.

Although the home side had a healthy possession advantage and outshot Pacific nine to four, the Tridents refused to budge as they held on for their fifth clean sheet from six games in all competitions this season so far.

The two clubs will, therefore, know that either of them could advance to the semifinals with a win in any fashion on May 29 at Starlight Stadium.

Three Observations

CPL leaders cancel each other out in cagey ‘chess game’

The narrative heading into this game surrounded Atlético Ottawa’s red-hot attack and Pacific’s rock-solid defence, and what might happen when that seemingly unstoppable force crashed into a hereto immovable object. Ottawa had scored 12 goals in their last three games (all within the space of just over a week), while Pacific had not conceded a single goal in any of their four Canadian Premier League matches — the only blemish being TSS Rovers’ marker in the preliminary round of this competition.

It was no surprise, then, that the first half of this game was one-way traffic. Atlético Ottawa were clear protagonists, with seven shots and 64.3 per cent possession, as Pacific went without a single attempt at goal. However, just two of those first-half attempts from Ottawa were on target; although they largely set the tempo by controlling the ball, they didn’t have much success playing into high-quality shooting areas.

Essentially, this was a case of both teams waiting for the other to blink, and neither did. Pacific never stepped out of their shape enough for Ottawa to send in a good cross to an open man, and Ottawa never coughed up the ball in an area where Pacific could launch the counter-attack that would likely have been their greatest hope of scoring a goal.

“It was a chess game honestly, no one wanted to make the first mistake and give away that first goal easily,” Pacific midfielder Cédric Toussaint said postmatch. “Both teams defended very well, that’s why the score was 0-0.”

Whether there were openings for either side to be more aggressive or not, neither seized upon those opportunities and upped the energy level.

“Neither team was really willing to go at that space and attack that space,” Pacific head coach James Merriman said. “I think you can see this, and now it makes for a game at home for us with all to play for in front of our fans, and we feel good.”

Both teams can, in a way, lay claim to being the more satisfied side heading into leg two. Pacific get to play at home now, where they’ve won every CPL game this year, knowing that a win would put them in the semifinal. However, with the away goals rule in effect, if Ottawa manage to score first then Pacific would have to score twice, since a 1-1 draw would send Atleti to the next round.

PHOTO: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography

Pacific set up well for clean sheet on the road

From the very beginning of this match, it became clear that James Merriman and Pacific were fully conscious of the fact that this is a two-legged tie, and that no winner would be decided on the day.

Pacific’s back four, with Eric Lajeunesse and Kunle Dada-Luke as fullbacks outside of Aly Ndom and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, stayed compact throughout the game. Neither Lajeunesse nor Dada-Luke spent much time in the attacking half, tracking back defensively and collapsing toward the box to prevent Ottawa from getting in behind them.

The midfield, however, was where Pacific really set the tone for this game. Sean Young and Cédric Toussaint formed a double pivot that essentially swallowed Ottawa’s midfield, breaking up any attempts at directness or increasing the pace of play. Toussaint won the ball eight times and Young won four headers, as they did all they could to prevent Ottawa from establishing any kind of rhythm through the middle.

As a result, Ottawa’s creative midfielders were all unusually quiet; Manny Aparicio’s 57 touches was below most of the other Ottawa players who went the full 90, and his 75 per cent passing accuracy was abnormally low as he was often forced to play long.

Although it never really felt like Pacific had much hope of scoring a goal in this game, they still leave the match feeling that they’ve accomplished what they set out to do.

“We feel good at home,” Merriman said. “Could we have taken a chance in the second half? Maybe, but overall in terms of what we came here to do, and what the match plan was without the ball, we were very, very solid. With the ball we could’ve been better for sure, but it’s still early in our development as a new team and a new group, and it’s another clean sheet; we’ll go home feeling good.”

PHOTO: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography

Tired Ottawa’s movement not quick enough to pull apart settled defence

One indicator of how difficult it became for Atlético Ottawa to find forward passing lanes? Their centre-backs Amer Didic and Luke Singh played a staggering 110 passes to one another — 56 from Didic to Singh, and 54 from Singh to Didic. That’s more than 20 per cent of all the passes Atlético Ottawa made as a team on the evening, going sideways or backwards between the central defenders.

As Atleti continuously recycled the ball, the open passes became less and less available as the side’s energy levels began to drop. As head coach Carlos González pointed out after the game, they’ve played a lot of football recently with a midweek cup match last week as well, and they were exhausting minutes. It can be tiring scoring the amount of goals Ottawa have in the past week and a half, especially breaking teams open in transition as they did a few times.

“It’s true that we lacked a little bit of spark or dynamism in the last third, provoked by the condensed week we’ve had,” González said. “At the end of the day we played like 72 hours ago, and when you play in these conditions it’s easier for the team that wants to defend. If you want to have the initiative then you need a little bit more rhythm in certain moments that today we lacked. But it’s a 180 minute game, so it’s not a negative result.”

Another positive for Ottawa was their first true glimpse of recent international signing Dani Morer. The 26-year-old Spaniard made his first start for the club, lining up on the right of midfield — perhaps a surprise, given he’s a natural right-back, while Kris Twardek played that position.

Morer’s 60-minute shift was a suggestion that he might be a very impactful player for Atleti this year. He created three chances (no other player created more than one) and had a 92.3 per cent passing accuracy in the final third, winning five out of six duels with one successful dribble and two tackles.

Ottawa continue to develop new options for attacking teams in a variety of ways; they fell flat going forward on Wednesday, but the balance of evidence from this year so far suggests they could still do a lot of damage in the second leg.

PHOTO: Tim Austen/Freestyle Photography Player of the Match

Cédric Toussaint, Pacific FC

Toussaint was a large part of the reason Pacific were able to break up Ottawa’s attacking momentum, winning eight out of 11 duels, making three successful tackles, and winning possession eight times. He also led his team with 60 accurate passes.

Box Score


Atlético Ottawa: Yesli; Twardek, Didic, Singh, Tissot (Antinoro 82′); Morer (Tabla 60′), Sissoko (Zapater 72′), Aparicio, De Brienne; Bassett, Salter (Del Campo 60′)

Pacific FC: Melvin; Dada-Luke, Meilleur-Giguère, Ndom, Lajeunesse; Yeates (Quintana 89′), Young, Toussaint; Heard (Bahous 78′), Moore (Reid 78′), Zanatta (Tircoveanu 70′)




34′ — Yellow: Matteo de Brienne (Atlético Ottawa)
62′ — Yellow: Ollie Bassett (Atlético Ottawa)
90+8′ — Yellow: Kunle Dada-Luke (Pacific FC)

What’s next?

These sides will meet again in the second leg back at Starlight Stadium on Wednesday, May 29 (7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET). Before that, however, both sides have CPL business to take care of. Atlético Ottawa will be out west to play Vancouver FC this Sunday, May 12 (4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET), while Pacific are at home the day before on Saturday, hosting Forge FC (2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET).

Watch all TELUS Canadian Championship matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.