Final Score: Atlético Ottawa 0-1 Valour FC Goalscorers: Ponce 90+4' Game of the 2023 season: 104 CPL match: 471​

Match in a minute or less

Valour FC picked up a 1-0 victory at TD Place on Sunday, beating Atlético Ottawa on a 94th-minute goal from Walter Ponce. Despite a strong start to the game from the visitors, and a response from Ottawa as they too looked to find the game's opening goal, the first half would end scoreless. Ottawa ramped up the intensity even more after the break, knowing that a win would have moved them up to fourth in the table to end the weekend, but their efforts would end up being all for naught as they were held off the scoresheet. With one of the very last kicks of the game, Walter Ponce won all three points for Valour, firing the ball past Nathan Ingham from close range to pick up a 1-0 win. It's the fourth time in the last five matches that Ottawa have conceded the winning goal in second half stoppage time, a trend they need to break as soon as possible as they try to hang onto the final playoff spot.

Three Observations

Ottawa lose late again, turn attention to critical match against York​

A worrying trend continued at TD Place on Sunday, as Atlético Ottawa lost the match in the dying seconds for the fourth time in the last five matches. Over the past month, Ottawa lost in similar fashion at home to Cavalry FC and away to both Vancouver FC and Halifax Wanderers -- with a 1-1 draw against Pacific sandwiched in between. Overall, Ottawa are now winless in their past six matches, last winning a game when they beat Valour FC 3-1 in Winnipeg on August 18. Head coach Carlos Gonzalez said after the match that he was feeling a sense of déjà vu. "It's a repetitive situation," he started. "I think that we were better than Valour. I think the first half was quite equal, but I think in the second half we were better than them. We created chances, we weren't ruthless enough in those moments that you have to score, and you need to win the game. "I don't think it's a unique factor that is making us lose in extra time, but the bigger factor probably is that the necessity of going to win games and and the mental demand of that throughout our very long season. This long season [had] a lot of mental demands from the beginning in which you lost a lot of points in the beginning, this makes it so that for more than half of the season you are chasing the season. You are trying to win every single game because it's not enough, too tight. This creates a mental fatigue or something that creates that, that small details in certain moments are punishing us." For a while now, even going back to last season, Ottawa have been embracing a mentality of "one more final" before their key matches, a rallying cry of sorts to get the team fired up for key battles that can define their season. While that hasn't exactly paid off lately, it will need to be the mentality next weekend as they head to York Lions Stadium for a match that could very well decide which of the two teams will make the playoffs. The Nine Stripes currently trail Ottawa by a single point. If Ottawa win, they clinch a spot in the playoffs as they'd be four points up with one match to be played, but if York win, they would overtake Ottawa and be leading them by two points. If it ends in a draw, then it will set up a wild final weekend of the season full of scoreboard watching. Gonzalez's side will head across Ontario for that match, knowing that it is make-or-break. Depending on other results, a win could also see them overtake Halifax for fourth place and a home playoff game. "We're playing finals the last month, for the last two months," Gonzalez said after Sunday's game. "I think that the in the last two months is the same situation is playing for the need of being in a position that you want to be. We have been chasing the objective of the season from long ago, and it's going to be one more match that is going to be similar to the games that we've played until the moment. "The only thing that I see different is the opposition, I feel that they're going to be in a different state than the teams that we've played already, and that the teams that we've played in the last month." That game on Sunday at York Lions Stadium kicks off at 1 pm ET, and will be the final match of the penultimate weekend of the season.

Valour embracing spoiler role after elimination from playoff contention​

When you enter a season with lofty expectations, and then don't meet them, it can be easy for a team to give up or not give 100 per cent towards the tail end of the season. That wasn't the case on Sunday for Valour FC, however, despite being eliminated with a heartbreaking loss to Vancouver FC midweek. With three games left in their season entering this weekend, they wanted to end the year on a high. They knew they didn't want to just shut up shop and give up. Matteo de Brienne spoke a few weeks ago about he "[wanted] to see an all out war" from his teammates as they battled for position in the table, and even if results haven't necessarily been going their way since, the fight in the team has never waivered. "We have fans back home that deserve something so when we step on the field we just think about making them proud, and we're fighting for ourselves too, or for our career," said goalkeeper Rayane Yesli after the match. "Getting a win like this against a good team that's fighting for the playoffs, especially with the result that we had the against them last time they came home, it's amazing to be honest." Yesli said that the team is also embracing the role they have where they can still spoil the party for the teams ahead of them. This win keeps Ottawa within a point of sixth-place York in the final playoff spot, and they will also play the currently-fourth-place Halifax Wanderers on the final day of the season -- a match in which Ottawa will be cheering for the Winnipeggers. "It's another factor that motivates us," said Yesli. "I love being the underdog coming into a game, especially games like this. We have nothing to lose mathematically for the playoff race, but of course we have pride. I think it's easier for us when you don't have anything to lose to be in that position. "Personally, I love this, I would love to be the spoiler for the rest of the season for the other teams." Before Valour host Halifax on that final day of the season, they have to travel to ATCO Field to take on the regular season champions Cavalry FC. While that match is inconsequential for the Cavs, for Valour it is another opportunity to make a statement, and for them to potentially climb off the bottom of the table.

Haworth receives 'good sendoff' despite losing effort​

If Sunday's match was indeed the final home game of Carl Haworth's playing career -- most of which was spent in Ottawa between the Ottawa Fury and later Atlético Ottawa -- the club's fans made sure he went out in style. The team captain announced this past week that he will be retiring from playing at the end of the season, and with Sunday being the final home match of the regular season and no guarantee of a home playoff game, they honoured him before, during, and after the match. Before the game, there was a presentation the pitch with Haworth, his family, and the club's CEO Fernando Lopez. Every Ottawa player also wore shirts with "Haworth 9" on the back to honour their skipper, and family was on the on the pitch for the coin toss before the match and to watch a video tribute. When he was substituted out of the game in the second half, he left to a standing ovation, and admitted in his postgame press conference that he took his time coming off the pitch to really soak it all in. After the match he spent some time shaking hands with fans, including a member of the Capital City Supporters Group, who gifted him a CCSG-themed clothing item for Haworth's young child among other things. It was a special day for all of those in attendance, even if the final score wasn't what most of them were hoping for. "Result aside it was still I think a happy day for me, a good send off if you will, if we're not able to take care of business and get another home game," said Haworth after the match. "To see so many familiar faces in the crowd was something special, people who I've seen ten years ago and grown with them, grown with football here in the city. "It's been it's been emotional, nice to have my family here in town as well. To share that moment with them was pretty incredible as well." Haworth is retiring in part due to a knee injury, and he said after the match that he has had to get it drained and injected with cortisone in recent times in order to be able to play. He's giving it his all in the final chapter of his career, and will have at least two games left -- against York United next week and Forge FC the week after. Depending on the results of those games and games elsewhere in the league, Ottawa could still host a playoff game, but that hope took a hit on Sunday, to the disappointment of Carlos Gonzalez. "He has been a player and a person that has given so much to the football community," the Ottawa gaffer said. "[The] special moment for him is well deserved, and a little bit sad because we wanted to to fight for another game here. "Now, things are going to be difficult, but happy for him because I think that if you forget the result it has been an ideal goodbye." Player of the Match

Walter Ponce, Valour FC Walter Ponce's appearance on Sunday was brief, but effective. After being subbed into the match for Pacifique Niyongabire in the 70th minute, Ponce would go on to score the match-winning goal deep into stoppage time and win three points for his club.

What’s next?

Valour visit regular season winners Cavalry FC on Friday evening at ATCO Field (7 pm MT/8 pm CT). Atlético Ottawa are on the road as well, visiting York United in a crucial match on Sunday (1 pm ET). Watch all CPL matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.

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