Valour FC is in full control of this league. With 15 points, the Winnipeg-based club has been turning heads and shocking analysts across the country. Today they would hope to make it 18 points. It hasn’t been a full month yet, and two of the CPL’s “Player Of The Week” awards have gone to Valour FC players so far.
York United entered this match with just 6 points on the year with 3 draws and just 1 win, which coincidentally came against Valour FC eleven days earlier on July 7th.
ANOTHER VALOUR-HEAVY FIRST HALF
Valour FC has made a habit of scoring goals in the first half of their games. Tonight’s match was no different, with Stefan Cebara flicking one home in the 18th minute off of a corner kick. As I mentioned in my previous piece, Head Coach Rob Gale spoke very highly of Cebara after the previous game and, as if on queue, he proved why tonight.
There was a powerful surge from York, which culminated in a PK attempt in the 35th minute. This would be York’s best opportunity on the half but was thwarted by an acrobatic save made by yet-to-be-scored-on keeper Jonathan Sirois. Sirois now has 5 straight clean sheets, and saves like that are a sign he wants to make this game number six.
On the ensuing corner, the ball came loose, sending Austin Ricci and a couple of his teammates on a charge ending the three-on-one with a shot that missed the net. Don’t worry though, he would get another chance.
In the 42nd minute, Sean Rea slid through a beautiful pass to Ricci who one-touched it sweetly into the bottom corner to make the game 2-0 for Valour. All of York’s pressure from the previous 30 minutes let out all of its air at that moment. Valour would keep pressing for the rest of the half, nearly scoring a couple more times before the referee blew the half-time whistle, giving York a chance to breathe and reset in the dressing room.
York United came out guns blazing in the second half, putting Sirois to the test a couple of times in the first few minutes. This would cause tensions to rise as Valour scrambled to make the necessary adjustments.
The yellow cards were free-flowing in the frame. Only one card was given in the first half, but by the 62nd minute, there had been 4 given and the game ended with 5 total.
Valour FC has shown this season that they certainly like to shore up the defensive side of things when they have a lead, but this doesn’t slow down their offensive looks at all. They continue to press and push for a goal, which frustrates the opponent and acts as a second layer of defence. After all, if you’re busy trying not to get scored on, it’s difficult to focus on scoring a goal yourself.
For example, in the 73rd minute, Ricci took a nice through-ball from Moses Dyer and made the score 3-0 by sliding it into the opposite side of the goal. Ricci now stands alone in the Golden Boot race with his 4 goals in 7 games.
Valour is a team possessed right now, and they want to keep this momentum going. After today the team gets nearly a week off, playing HFX Wanderers next Saturday in their last match as part of “The Kickoff” here in Winnipeg. After that, they’ll hit the road across the country to play their opponents in unfriendly territory.
Valour looked very hungry for the win today after suffering their only loss to York in their previous meeting. Valour co-captain Daryl Fordyce said, “We were hungry today. We said to the boys before the game that whenever they’d score a goal they celebrated in front of our fans and, to be honest, we weren’t too happy about that and that fired us up today.”
York didn’t play poorly today. They played a solid game, and aside from a few mistakes that left them exposed, they really deserved to be in this game. That said, I’ll quote the OneSoccer play-by-play crew when they said “It’s just Valour doing Valour things on the counter.”
What a change from all the analysts saying that Valour can’t score, can’t win when it counts, and all the rest of what Ricci and Gale have both previously called “outside noise” to now, where they are dominating every other club that walks out on that pitch. Still, somehow, people are doubting. The same play-by-play crew said that, “by the end of the season, I think Forge and Cavalry will be the teams the rest of the pack will be chasing.” If I were Gale, I’d be rather perturbed at the sheer lack of respect shown to my squad. The man himself goes the other way though, saying, “I don’t have time in my day to worry about anyone else but my own group,” dismissing any negative comments before adding, “the only thing we have to prove is to ourselves.”
An important game note is that Andrew Jean-Baptiste left the pitch in the first half, returned to the bench iced up and on crutches, but no word on how severe the injury is. “Too early to tell,” said Gale, when pressed about it after the match. More details will come out in the next few days, I’m sure.
Jonathan Sirois is a brick wall back there. It’s no wonder he was awarded the CPL Player Of The Week honours last week. 6-straight clean sheets tend to speak for themselves, on top of the penalty kick save he made tonight. This young man has a bright future ahead of him.
Valour is legitimately the best team in this league this year. There isn’t really an argument to be made for anyone else, although you’re going to hear the doubters (read: “haters”) try to make their cases. From year one to now, they have improved immeasurably. In defeating York United tonight, they’ve officially beaten every single team they’ve faced this year, some of them twice. It’s no fluke, people. They are for real.