Final Score: FC Edmonton 0-1 Atlético Ottawa Goalscorers: Viti Martínez (82') Game of the 2021 season: 1 CPL match: 136

Match in a minute or less

FC Edmonton and Atlético Ottawa opened the 2021 CPL season with a nailbiting, end-to-end affair, which saw both sides searching furiously for a goal right down to the wire. The well-organized Atlético side were certainly tested by the Eddies, who arguably had the better of the first half (including a controversial disallowed goal). It was Ottawa, though, who claimed all the spoils, with an 82nd-minute Viti Martínez goal from outside the box ultimately all they needed thanks to a resolute defensive effort to preserve a clean sheet.

RELATED READING: HIGHLIGHTS: Martínez winner gives Atlético Ottawa season-opening win vs. FC Edmonton || Sights and Sounds: FC Edmonton 0-1 Atlético Ottawa

Three observations

Esua dangerous in attacking role Jeannot Esua, typically a right fullback for Edmonton the past two years, started in a more advanced role on Saturday, pushing up into an attacking position while Fraser Aird moved into the backline -- where he, too, was able to make good use of his physicality and strong passing range. The swap worked out well for the Esua, who had a better opportunity to demonstrate his pace and vision with acres of space on the right side. A combination of Ottawa left-back Vashon Neufville pushing up the pitch and the Eddies overloading the left side meant Esua had plenty of room to run into dangerous positions and look for crosses or even through balls from the middle. If that's to be part of his role consistently this season, expect him to add a few more goals and assists to his resumé. Koch mentioned after the game that flexibility is a key characteristic of his team, and such a role was exactly what he wanted on Saturday for Esua: "Whether he plays as a winger or a fullback, he's looking to attack all the time. He's quick, he's dynamic, he's skilled." Ottawa defence stays organized Atlético came into the match with a back four of Vashon Neufville, Milovan Kapor, Drew Beckie, and Miguel Acosta only two of whom (Neufville and Kapor) were with the side in 2020. Nonetheless, their performance was almost spotless on Sautrday; Edmonton challenged them a few times, but in general any burst of pace or final-third passing from the Eddies bore little fruit because the Ottawa defenders refused to bite on dummy runs or break out of their shape. Beckie, in particular, had an immediate impact on the side's defence, ensuring the back four remained rigidly aligned for most of the contest. He did well steering the ship and taking the chief passing role from the back, moving it out to Neufville on the left most often. Atlético coach Mista heaped praise on his defenders, pointing out that he much preferred this defensive effort far more to that in their 2-2 draw with FCE at the Island Games: "I love how they help each other on the field... We did a great job defensively; last year in the same game, we lost focus in the last 10 minutes and we drew the game." Eddies show potential up front, wilt late The absence of Easton Ongaro in the starting 11 for Edmonton was a surprise, but his place was filled remarkably well by Tobias Warschewski, who looked to be a similar kind of technical, powerful striker. The German forward's first-half strike (was it offside? Alan Koch, having not seen a replay, wouldn't comment) showed a great nose for the goal and willingness to try such a shot, and he was quite a handful for centre-back Milovan Kapor on a number of occasions. When Ongaro is fully healthy, perhaps a dual-striker system with the pair of them could create real havoc in the box, especially with, perhaps, Esua and Beto Avila working from the outside to play into their feet. Edmonton played quite direct in their attack on Saturday -- perhaps because a lack of match sharpness makes it harder to experiment with more complex tactics just yet -- but it served them well. Frankly, Edmonton was the better side for much of the first half -- Mista admitted he wasn't happy with Ottawa's first 20 minutes -- but the disparity in game fitness reared its head late in the second half, despite Koch injecting fresh legs into the match. Still, that the Eddies kept a clean sheet for so long and remained very competitive against a well-drilled team is quite remarkable. Koch, for his part, said he had nothing to complain about: "[Ottawa] should be miles ahead of us, and I think fatigue caught up with us at the end... I'm incredibly proud, they played very well from the start to the end. It's unfortunate we couldn't get more out of the game." Player of the Match

Drew Beckie, Atlético Ottawa The Ottawa centre-back was outstanding in this game, commanding a well-organized backline for the clean sheet. Four interceptions, two tackles, eight clearances, and five recoveries paint a picture of phenomenal defensive effort.

What’s next?

Atlético Ottawa move on to take on Cavalry at 10 pm ET (9 pm CT) on Wednesday, June 30, while FC Edmonton get an extra day’s preparation ahead of their next match, which kicks off at 8 pm ET (7 pm CT) on Thursday (Canada Day). Watch all games live on OneSoccer.

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