Atlético Ottawa is set for another CPL milestone as it hosts a play-off game for the first time.

Atlético Ottawa is set for another CPL milestone as it hosts a play-off game for the first time.

Another milestone for Atlético Ottawa on Sunday as it hosts its first home game in the Canadian Premier League.

Under new coach Carlos Gonzalez, Ottawa has already completed its worst start to the regular season, climbing from the league basement at 6-14-8 last year to 13-5-10 in eight games this season. for first place.

And last Saturday, it celebrated its playoff debut by defeating defending champion Pacific FC 2-0 in Longford, BC in the first leg of their semi-final. Ottawa, unbeaten in 10 games (5-0-5) since losing 1-0 at Pacific on August 13, is now 90 minutes away from the CPL championship game.

TD Place’s presence has reflected this success. The team is averaging about 4,000 per home game this season, up about 30 percent from last year, and is expected to draw between 7,000 and 8,000 for the return leg against Pacific on Sunday. .

“It’s very special for the team, very special for the club and very special for the football community,” said Gonzalez, who expects an “electric atmosphere”.

In Sunday’s other semifinal, No. 2 Forge hosts No. 3 Cavalry FC at Tim Hortons Field after a 1-1 draw in Calgary.

The semi-finals will be decided on aggregate, the away goals rule not in effect. The teams will go straight to a penalty shootout to decide the winner if the series ends in a tie on aggregate.

Gonzalez says his team’s first league victory has left them behind.

“The team is hungry. The team has the right mood,” the Spaniard said.

Ottawa essentially cleaned house after last season with only seven returning players and 16 new arrivals.

Gonzalez says he saw the potential when he took over the team in late February.

“The important part was there. It was the talent of the players. Once you have the material you can start working on, you have the most important thing,” he said.

“We wanted to compete against every team… it was a clear goal because I can imagine the team will reach that level,” he added.

Zach Verhoon, the former Pacific winger who scored last week’s first-ever win with Ottawa over the Vancouver Islanders, says Gonzalez has brightened the team.

“From day one, Carlos set everything up for the club. He was very clear about what he wanted to do with us as a team,” said Verhoun, a BC native who will play in 2021. Joined Ottawa in April. Just putting in that work every day in Spain (pre-season) and then carrying it into the season, you definitely saw the potential in his plan and the group of players we had.

Ottawa will be without suspended Spanish defender Diego Espejo. Gonzalez said he will make a decision Saturday on the status of McDonald Neba, Ivan Perez and Kevin Alleman, who are all dealing with injuries.

Cavalry coach Tommy Weldon Jr., meanwhile, reports a healthy team ahead of his trip to Hamilton. And he’s confident his team can take down Forge

“Don’t get me wrong. They are a fantastic side,” he said. “They’re very well coached. They’ve got some valuable players. But they’re also vulnerable at times. And I don’t think they’ve had as good a home record as they once would have liked. So that’s it. It is not a fort that people build it.

“They’ve had big-game experiences in the past. But the past is the past.” “So for us, we see this as an opportunity to go out there and just be our true selves. We feel we have enough in the tank to get the result that we can pull off.”

The championship game will be played on Oct. 29 or 30 at the home of the highest remaining seed, with Ottawa, Forge and the Cavaliers all possible hosts. No. 4 Pacific could not host the final.

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