2022 CPL Playoffs — Semifinal Leg 2
Athletic Ottawa vs. Pacific FC (2-0 agg.)
October 23, 2022 at 2 pm ET/11 am PT
TD Place Stadium Ottawa, Ontario
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The Canadian Premier League playoffs will arrive in the nation’s capital for the very first time this weekend, as Atlético Ottawa host Pacific FC in their first home postseason match in club history. This second and decisive leg of the semifinal will determine who proceeds to next weekend’s CPL Final, where one of these two clubs will have a chance to lift the North Star Shield.
Ottawa enter Sunday’s game with a leg up on the Tridents, having beaten them 2-0 in last weekend’s opening leg at Starlight Stadium in Langford, BC The visiting Atleti were stout defensively despite a heavy possession advantage for Pacific, and ultimately goals from Ballou Table and Zach Verhoven ensured the club would return home with a lead on aggregate.
The regular season champions will be desperate to take another step toward winning the double, which they’ll have a very good chance of doing on home turf if they see out this tie against Pacific.
There’s no away goals rule in the CPL playoffs, but nonetheless Ottawa will be thrilled to have such a breathing room in this second match of the tie. Head coach Carlos González is happy with the position his side is in, but this past week of training will have been spent trying to prepare for how Pacific might change their attack to try and level the tie.
“They have to be more offensive, they have to win a game with a goal difference of two at least so it’s normal that in some moments of the game they’re going to be more offensive than usual,” González said Friday. “Let’s see what they do, we can imagine what kind of things they’ll do.”
“We’ve got everything we need to be successful” 🗣️
— Canadian Premier League (@CPLsoccer) October 20, 2022
Ottawa will be without a few players on Sunday, with Diego Espejo suspended due to card accumulation and both Ivan Perez and Macdonald Niba injured. Keven Aleman is questionable with an injury picked up in last week’s first leg, as well.
Pacific, meanwhile, have no choice but to remain positive about their chances in this second leg despite trailing on aggregate. The defending champions were left disappointed and frustrated after their first ever home playoff game last week, but their run to the title in 2021 proved that they can win big games on the road when needed.
Head coach James Merriman has said this week that his players will need to lean on experience to overturn this tie, particularly the Concacaf League tie against Herediano where they lost the first leg at home before equalizing at the very end of the second leg in Costa Rica —although they did ultimately lose on penalties.
“We went [to Herediano] fearlessly, we knew we had a big challenge,” Merriman said on Saturday. “We accepted it and then we focused on the work that needed to be done, the preparation, and how we needed to attack the game. This is no different, we know it’s a challenge. We accept the challenge. We need to score a goal; as soon as we score a goal we can open this game right up.”
“Obviously the team goal is to repeat and bring the title back to Vancouver Island”@Pacificfccpl defend @amerdidic_ is competing in the #CanPL playoffs for the first time after three years on the outside looking in, and he spoke to @charliejclarke about that and more 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/wY2Jzf9M31
— Canadian Premier League (@CPLsoccer) October 20, 2022
Although Pacific’s regular season wasn’t quite as consistent as they would have liked, and as a result they finished fourth in the table, Merriman and his squad are nonetheless confident in their ability to get a quick start against Ottawa and make this a competitive second leg. They’ll also be particularly on Sunday to earn themselves one more game in 2022 — if nothing else motivated, than to extend the career of Captain Jamar Dixon by one more week.
For this match, Merriman will have a full complement of players to select from, including Gianni Dos Santos and Djenairo Daniels, a pair of attackers who missed the first leg with injury.
The Tridents’ loss to Atleti in Leg 1 was just their third ever to this particular opponent; in regular season play this season, Pacific won two, drew one, and lost one encounter — though all four contests were decided by no more than a goal. Only once in their history have Pacific scored more than once in a game against Ottawa (a 4-2 win in 2021), but attacking football will, by necessity, be on the table for the visitors as they look to return to the CPL Final .
Make your match picks prior to kickoff at canpl.ca/predictor for a chance to win prizes, including the grand prize of a trip to the 2022 CPL Final! To learn more about ComeOn!, click here.
All CPL matches are available to stream on OneSocceror on TELUS Optik TV Channel 980.
3 THINGS TO WATCH
- TD Place set for playoff atmosphere: to playoff match always attracts a strong atmosphere, but with this being the first for Atlético Ottawa at TD Place, the club is expecting quite the raucous showing from supporters in the capital. Ottawa hasn’t hosted a professional playoff soccer game since 2019, when the Fury lost on penalties to Charleston Battery in the USL Championship play-in round. So, Sunday is expected to be a special moment for Atleti as they try and punch their ticket to their first CPL Final. That said, González and his staff will be imploring their players to play the game, not the occasion, since they’ll still need to get the job done on the pitch. “The club has been working so much in the last years to create a situation like the situation we’re going to live on Sunday here in Ottawa,” González said. “It’s very special for the team, for the club, and very special for the soccer community. It’s going to be a great game with a big crowd here and an electric atmosphere.”
- Pacific need sharpness to overturn two-goal deficit: Going away from home knowing you need to score at least twice to keep your season alive is not an easy place for Pacific to be. Nonetheless, James Merriman and co. have no choice on Sunday but to maintain a level of optimism and belief. Atlético Ottawa have only conceded two or more goals five times this year, but Pacific’s task is by no means impossible — in fact, Ottawa’s most recent home game saw them squander a two-goal lead to York United in a match that finished 2-2 . Pacific had 11 games this season where they scored at least twice, although only one of those came after the mid-summer departure of Alejandro Díaz. They’ll need major contributions from their other attackers this time, with wingers Josh Heard and Marco Bustos likely to be the creative outlets going forward and Manny Aparicio the engine of attack from the middle of the park. The good news is that Gianni Dos Santos and Djenairo Daniels have returned to training; expect one of them to get the nod at centre-forward on Sunday to try and be the focal point of the attack.
- Ottawa to shake up defense with Mirror suspended: One key wrinkle in the lead-up to this second leg is that Atlético Ottawa will be without defensive lynchpin Diego Espejo, whose yellow card in the first leg meant he’ll miss this fixture due to suspension. Expect Drew Beckie to slot in comfortably at centre-back, shouldering more of the defensive burden alongside partner Sergio Camus. Atleti will surely have to do a lot of defending on Sunday as Pacific try and overturn the 2-0 deficit, but González is certainly not worried, especially when he has a player of Beckie’s caliber who can take Espejo’s place. The two players have slightly different profiles — Ottawa will undoubtedly miss Espejo’s aerial presence — but nonetheless they’ll still likely be as defensively stout as usual.”We have players that can play at the same level that Espejo has been doing, so there’s not going to be any problem with that,” González said on Friday.
Pacific FC wins: 4 || Athletic Ottawa wins: 3 || Draws: 2
October 15, 2022 — Pacific 0-2 Atletico Ottawa
“Emotions. Details. Patience. Knowing that you’re not going to solve the game in 10 minutes, you’re not going to solve the game in one leg. It’s like a good steak that you have to digest a little bit with more time than usual. It’s not fast food, it’s a slow digestion of what is happening.” — Athletic Ottawa head coach Carlos Gonzalez
“For me, especially being here last year you see the change, the growing fanbase, and how far we’ve come as a group. It’s very special for us to host a playoff game at home.” — Athletic Ottawa attacker Zach Verhoven
“We’re gonna be aggressive; we’ve come here confidently to bring a match to Ottawa. It’s far from done in our opinion, we know they’re expecting a big crowd and they’re excited to host the game.” — Pacific FC head coach James Merriman
“We’re just focused on what we need to do in our preparation. It’s football, we need to score goals to win games. It’s very simple for us.” — Pacific FC midfielder Jamar Dixon