PREVIEW: Atlético Ottawa vs. Forge FC — 2024 Match #25 (2024)

PREVIEW: Atlético Ottawa vs. Forge FC — 2024 Match #25

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Mitchell Tierney, Digital Content Producer (@mitchelltierney)

2024 CPL Regular Season — Match #25
Atlético Ottawa vs. Forge FC
May 25, 2024 at 3 p.m. ET
TD Place in Ottawa, Ontario
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The Canadian Premier League’s last remaining undefeated side, Atlético Ottawa, will put that record on the line when they host Forge FC for the first time in 2024 on Saturday. The match pits the top two teams in CPL heading into the weekend in points per game.

The capital club’s 4-2-0 start to the CPL season has them top of the table by three points heading into this weekend, but it will be another first that will be on their mind — a victory over Forge FC at home. Atlético Ottawa are both winless, and have never scored a goal, against the Hamilton club at home in club history — including a 2-0 loss in the 2022 CPL Final at TD Place Stadium.

Both of Atleti’s two victories over Forge in 16 all-time meetings have come at Tim Hortons Field, including a 1-0 victory in their most recent clash on the final day of the regular season in 2023.

They are taking on a Forge side coming off a mammoth result and performance, having defeated an MLS side for the first time in club history. The Hamilton team stunned CF Montréal 2-1 at Stade Saputo on Wednesday night in the Canadian Championship quarter-finals, winning 3-2 on aggregate to advance to the semifinals.

“I think it was a great victory for them [on Wednesday] and I think it’s going to be a great test for us on Saturday,” said Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos González. “Not very surprising for me because I really know the level that there is here and the level of the teams here, and I was sure that they were going to do a good job in these Championship games. For us, at the end of the day, it’s a big test.”

That match, however, saw a two-hour weather delay between the first and second half and as a result, the squad fitness of Forge coming into this match will play a factor. This is especially true after the monumental defensive effort required during the second half.

Atlético Ottawa have a trip of their own to consider, however, as following Saturday’s match they begin preparing to travel to Victoria for the biggest game of their campaign so far. On Wednesday (10:00 p.m. ET), they face Pacific FC in the second leg of their Canadian Championship quarter-finals

Atlético Ottawa have never advanced to the semifinal round in the competition before, and doing so would be a significant milestone for the ambitious club.

Another piece of history that Atleti could make on Saturday, Rubén Del Campo is looking to tie the league’s record for consecutive games with a goal. He has scored in four straight CPL matches, with the record currently held by former Cavalry FC player Aribim Pepple who scored in four straight in 2022. Atleti are also the only club in the league to have scored in each of their games this season.

Forge FC, meanwhile, have been without their 2023 joint-leading goalscorer Terran Campbell for the past four matches in all competitions through injury. Campbell scored a brace in a 4-3 win over Atlético Ottawa at Tim Hortons Field last season — and has 6 goals and an assist against Atleti all-time.

For Ottawa, goalkeeper Nate Ingham is working his way back to fitness and will be assessed over the next few days to see if he is available for Saturday. Loanee central defender Liberman Torres has also joined the club and will be training with the group, but needs some time to get up to match fitness before being included in the matchday squad. Kevin Dos Santos, meanwhile, is expected to remain out for months with a knee injury.

3 THINGS TO WATCH

  • Forge coming off marathon match in Montréal: It will be a quick turnaround for Forge on Saturday, who played a gruelling match against CF Montréal in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday, interrupted by a two-hour weather delay. The challenge in getting up for this game will be both physical and emotional, after one of the biggest results in club history, which is saying something, will Forge still be able to match the intensity of a high flying Atlético Ottawa team that will be intent on making a statement on Saturday. What level of rotation Bobby Smyrniotis and his coaching staff elect to use in respect to this to keep up his team’s level for this match will be an intriguing part of Saturday’s plot.
  • Aboubacar Sissoko faces Forge for first time in 2024: After spending both 2022 and 2023 with Forge FC, winning the CPL Final both times including in Ottawa in 2022, Aboubacar Sissoko will face his former side for the first time since joining the capital club. The 28-year-old has been an outstanding addition to the Atleti midfield, making 31 recoveries and winning 34 duels while starting all six of Atleti’s league matches so far this season. “Of course, it’s going to be a very special game for him,” said González. “He had good seasons over there and he has many friends left there. He’s been a player that although he’s been here for not a long time, he seems to be like a veteran, you know, a player that has been here for a while. I think that his adaptation to the group, his adaptation to the city, to the club, has been really, really fast and we’re really, really happy with the level that he’s putting every single day on and off the field.”
  • A mouthwatering midfield battle awaits between two of the CPL’s best:Sissoko is far from the only midfielder to watch in this match, as Saturday’s match will be a showcase of some of the best midfielders in league history. Forge’s midfield features 2019 and 2020 CPL Players of the Year Tristan Borges and Kyle Bekker, respectively, while Atlético Ottawa have 2022 Player of the Year Ollie Bassett. Atleti, meanwhile, have since added back-to-back Player of the Year nominee Manny Aparicio who is already thriving in the nation’s capital. Add Alessandro Hojabrpour, Noah Jensen, Gabriel Antinoro and Alberto Zapater into the mix and this will combine for a fascinating battle in the middle of the park on Saturday.

PROJECTED STARTING XIs

Atlético Ottawa: Yesli; de Brienne, Singh, Didić, Twardek; Bassett, Aparicio, Sissoko, Antinoro; del Campo, Tabla

Forge FC: Koleilat; Duncan, Achinioti-Jönsson, Metusala, Owolabi-Belewu; Hojabrpour, Jensen, Borges; Poku, Badibanga, Koné

ALL-TIME SERIES

Atlético Ottawa wins: 2 || Forge FC wins: 11 || Draws: 3

Last meeting:

Oct 7, 2023 — Forge FC 0-1 Atlético Ottawa

KEY QUOTES

“It’s a big opportunity in a good moment of the season, early moment, in which we’re in a good position. So everything is positive about that.” — Atlético Ottawa head coach Carlos González

“It’s a quick turnaround, especially with a game that lasted five hours of that night and an early turnaround on Saturday. Biggest thing is that guys get as much rest as possible, and all the good things in between. We usually do a good job of turning around from one opponent in one game to another, whether that’s been a high or a low. And that’s something that’s key to this team.” ” — Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis

PREVIEW: Atlético Ottawa vs. Forge FC — 2024 Match #25 (2024)
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