York’s late equalizer steals a point against Atletico Ottawa

TORONTO, ON – It’s a darby, and there’s no other way to put it. There was a red card, a tying goal, and enough tempers to spark a rivalry in future clashes just in stoppage time. While the first few games between Atletico Ottawa and York United were calm, Friday’s 2-2 draw was anything but. 

Quick Recap:

York and Ottawa played to a 2-2 draw on Friday night at York Lions Stadium and did so in the most specular fashion possible. While York controlled the match in the opening half, Ottawa opened the scoring before the teams exchanged goals and giveaways en route to a draw in the affectionately dubbed “OnRouteIco.”

How it happened:

It wasn’t quite the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS, but Atletico Ottawa looked like they didn’t belong on the same pitch as York United through the first 30 minutes on Friday night. But, unlike the Whitecaps, Ottawa eventually looked like they belonged. 

York held 70 percent of the possession and controlled the midfield, swiftly advancing the ball while also exploiting Ottawa’s defence out on the wings. Through full-backs Diyaeddine Abziand Chrisinovic N’Sa, the Nine Stripes took advantage of their pace on a smaller field, pushing past Atletico’s Maxime Tissot and Macdonald Niba. 

Ottawa’s Carlos Gonzalez adjusted his lineup from last week’s 6-1 loss to Valour, notably replacing Jose da Cunha with Ben McKendry, who played a critical role through their opening 1-0 victories. Niba came into the match in the 10th minute after Diego Espejo and Miguel Acosta collided. 

Max Ferrari was the lone absence for York, unable to play due to a knock picked up in training. 

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Turning to Oliver Minatel once again in an attacking midfield role, the Nine Stripes dominated the early moments of the match and got a stellar chance when Abzi sent an outside curling cross into an open Minatel who fired his header straight at Ottawa’s Nathan Ingham. 

Less than 15 minutes later, however, Minatel pulled up while dribbling and had to leave the match in the 20th minute with what appeared to be a hamstring issue. 

Despite controlling the play through the rest of the half, York couldn’t test Ingham. However, their play and positive possession through the first 45 gave them promise for the second half. 

York’s promising play continued into the early moments of the second half, as N’sa’s cross found Sebastian Gutierrez at the back post, allowing the diminutive forward to attempt a bicycle kick which floated mere feet away from the goal.

(Canadian Premier League)

Despite their strong start in the second half, Atletico Ottawa opened the scoring against the run of play, as Ollie Basset linked up with Zach Verhoven before Brian Wright finished his shot to the far post, giving Ottawa the lead. The goal, however, opened up the match for the rest of the second half. 

In the 64th minute, Basset turned the ball over in the midfield, and Mouhamadou Kane hopped on the loose ball and found Osaze de Rosario in a breakaway before Ottawa goalkeeper Nathan Ingham took down the young attacker, allowing him to score the penalty. 

With the game on embers heading into the final 10 minutes, a giveaway from Abzi on the York backline allowed Ballou Tabla to score his first CPL goal for Ottawa, giving them a 2-1 lead in the final five minutes. However,  Cedric Toussaint earned a red card in stoppage time, forcing York to finish the match with ten men. 

As York drove forward in the late moments shorthanded, veteran defender Dominik Zator got his boot on a lofted ball over the top and finished on the penultimate play of the match in stoppage time to steal a point.

Osaze De Rosario extends the goal streak and tests a new position

Even though Lowell Wright returned to York from the Canadian U20s and Austin Ricci is rounding into fitness, it was the 20-year-old who got his third straight start. Despite looking a little lost in the first half, he found his step in the second and got himself a breakaway before being pulled down and finishing the PK. 

While he plays comfortably in the centre forward position and threatens backlines with his pace and positional awareness, he proved that he could also impact on the wing. When Wright and Ricci entered the match, De Rosario shifted to the right-wing and did not look like himself. 

York head coach Martin Nash mentioned that he wanted to try attacking with all three players, and he did just that in the final stages. “He’s young, enthusiastic, and athletic; I was impressed by him today, we told him at halftime, and he said he could play any position,” Nash told reporters post-match. 

Despite his coaches’ pleasure, the youngster’s impact was far less through the latter stages of the game, unable to create spaces in the middle for beat players from his wide area. Still, he is a young player with the potential to grow into that role and his central prowess. 

The officiating thing and the last goal

Canadian Premier League officiating isn’t fantastic, and that isn’t new, but it had a massive impact on Friday’s final result. On York’s tying goal, a throw-in sparks their attack, but it likely should have been awarded to Ottawa, a decision that would have given Atletico all three points. 

“We are humans, and soccer is a game of mistakes,” Gonzalez said. “Small details can make a big difference, not only for players and coaches but the referees too. I think we have to help each other, but the reality is we have to be conscious of the small situations and details.”

It is not the first time officiating has taken centre stage in a CPL match, and it won’t be the last. However, it provided an unparalleled level of excitement, which may draw more fans back in the future. 

The CPL has done an excellent job of developing players up to this point, and officiating is the next step. For now, these are the best referees in Canada,  but with more games and regular assessments, they will undoubtedly learn from their mistakes.

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