It’s time for some mid-week football in the capital. Pacific FC begin their three-match tour of Ontario on Wednesday when the Tridents face off against Atlético Ottawa for the fourth this season. With Pacific coming off a hard-fought draw and Ottawa looking to rebound after a last-minute loss to Vancouver FC on the weekend, both clubs come into this fixture fighting for their playoff positioning.
After Cavalry FC beat HFX Wanderers FC on Tuesday afternoon, Pacific will be focused on getting all three points themselves in this match to keep pace with the Cavs at the top of the table. A victory for the Tridents would continue the tight race for the regular season title while also inflicting a blow on Ottawa who now has the chance to move above the Wanderers with a win of their own. Additionally, after this match finishes on Wednesday evening, all five playoff teams plus sixth-placed York United FC will all be on the same number of games played for the first time in months.
Given that, this is a massive game for both Pacific and Ottawa. Results at this point in the season, especially in a playoff race tighter than we’ve ever seen before, can swing your season one way or another. The playoff picture can truly change in an instant right now, so a victory for Pacific in the nation’s capital would provide the Tridents with an added spark at a pivotal point of the season.
This season, it’s been evenly-contested through the first three meetings between Pacific and Ottawa. In the first match between these two this campaign, the Tridents came away with a statement 4-1 victory at TD Place – a match which kick-started a nine match unbeaten run that was bookended by the second meeting at the end of June. That second match finished as a 2-2 draw and the third was a 1-0 win for Ottawa in mid-August.
With both of those previous meetings taking place on the Island, this fourth and final regular season match is a chance for the Tridents to go back to where their 2022 season ended in the playoff semi-final and enact some more revenge.
All-time, the head to head stands at five wins for Pacific, four wins for Ottawa, and four draws.
“ I said it before the beginning of the season, I thought this would be the most competitive season yet, and we’re seeing it. It’s gonna come right down to that last weekend. Of course, over the next few matches we’ll start to see a clearer picture, but it’s incredibly competitive and we see that parity across the league.” — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman
Keys to Victory
Out of possession, the Tridents can trouble Ottawa by both pressing high or sitting back. We saw that high press work wonders in the first meeting of the season (Pacific’s 4-1 win), especially through Sean Young’s opening goal. However, on the other hand, sitting back and forcing Ottawa to open up in possession before pouncing on a loose touch or loose pass creates gaps in transition that can be exploited.
The counter-attack has definitely worked well for Pacific against this version of the Atlético Ottawa team that is more than comfortable in a low block. It’s not about completely conceding possession to Ottawa, but when they do come out of their shell there are chances to be found going forward.
In possession, if Ottawa does set up in their low block, the key to undoing that is to play more vertically than horizontally. Take chances with the ball and look to break lines with quick, forward-thinking passing. If you do attempt to play through an opposition set up to defend close to their own area, however, be wary of being counter-attacked yourself.
Match Facts to Know
- Pacific FC broke the 2,000 U-21 minute minimum during Friday’s match against HFX Wanderers becoming just the third team to do so and the first of those three to be in the playoff picture.
- This match kicks off a three-match tour of Ontario as Pacific FC goes onto play York United FC and Forge FC on Sunday and next Saturday respectively.
- From the club’s four trips to the nation’s capital to face Atlético Ottawa over the years, Pacific FC has never been shut out.