Atletico Ottawa continue to push to stay atop the standings heading into the CPL playoffs


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Atletico Ottawa could put a few more dollars in their pockets if the steady-as-you-go approach continues.

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As Atletico continue to sit atop the tight Canadian Premier League standings, the league has announced that the regular season champions will be rewarded financially.

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In years past, only the winner of the playoffs received an additional financial bonus. The CPL does not publicly reveal the actual amount.

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« The goal is always to be in the top four and make the playoffs, » said Atletico CEO Fernando Lopez. “We have to be humble. We still have three games left, but I would say (finishing first) is an extra motivation for us.

On Sunday, Ollie Bassett scored his eighth goal of the season – from a corner – as Atletico earned a 1-1 draw on the road against Winnipeg-based Valor FC.

It was Atletico’s fourth straight tie, leaving them with a record 11 wins, nine draws and five losses, for 42 points.

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Next up for Atletico is another road game on Saturday against Calgary Cavalry FC. Cavalry are just one point behind with a record of 12 wins, five draws and eight losses, followed by Hamilton’s Forge FC (12 wins, four draws and eight losses). Forge has only played 24 games, one less than Atletico and Cavalry.

Valor and Langford, B.C.-based Pacific FC are currently tied with 37 points for fourth and final playoff spot.

« I couldn’t not be happy, » Lopez said, halfway through a four-game road streak.

“We are still in first place. We want to win every game, but we have to be realistic. There is tension there, pressure there. The last few weeks have been particularly tight for all the teams, I would say. Everyone tries to defend, not to give up too much.

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Lopez won’t get ahead of himself, but he’s understandably hoping Atletico will at least get some post-season breathing space ahead of the regular season finale on October 9 at TD Place against York United.

As a development-oriented league, the CPL requires all teams to achieve a minimum of 2,000 minutes of play time for Canadian players under the age of 21. At this point, Atletico are 1,702 minutes away, the only team yet to reach the goal.

« The distances between the teams are very, very short, » he said. « Everything is tight, every game counts, every point is like life or death. We want to stay true to our style, but win every game.

As for the extra award for the regular-season champion, Lopez says it’s something that should be honored.

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« It’s very important to reward the team that is the most consistent over 28 games, » he said. “The longer I am in this league, the more I recognize the challenges. The distances are far away, there are time differences. It’s very hard. In the playoffs, you can have a bad day, a bad game, but (recognizing the best) out of 28 games is important.

« We want to make history in our second season and at the top at the end of the season. It would be a dream.

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