Valour FC travelled outside of the bubble for the first time this year, finding themselves hosted by FC Edmonton. After winning three-quarters of their matches thus far, Valour was hoping to continue their winning ways away from IG Field in Winnipeg. Having earned the second-most goals for (12), the fewest goals against (3), and the best goal differential (+9), they have some expectations on them as they head out into the world.
Valour also announced this week that they signed Canadian defender Rocco Romeo, who is on loan from Toronto FC in the MLS. He would be given the start immediately, as the loss of Andrew Jean-Baptiste has left a fairly large hole in the Valour defence.
Edmonton has just two wins on the year, and they are hoping to shake another one out of the league leaders tonight at Clarke Field. Their defence isn’t much in question, having conceded the second-fewest goals with just 7. That said, their offence has produced the second-fewest goals with just 6. Only HFX Wanderers have scored fewer.
FIRST HALF JITTERS
Having only played in their own stadium to date, I think it was a commonly held belief that Valour might have some issues adjusting to playing “away” games. They also haven’t visited Edmonton since 2019.
Whenever Valour plays, goals tend to come early on in the match. Today would prove no different, only it was the Eddies that would strike first with Easton Ongaro beating Valour keeper Jonathan Sirois in the 13th minute.
Valour seemed quite disjointed for the rest of the half, with the exception of a beautiful blast by Raphael Ohin from distance that clipped the fingertips of Edmonton’s keeper Connor James before hitting the crossbar and bouncing away.
SECOND HALF SCRAMBLE
The second half started with a little Valour FC pressure as they had an extended opportunity inside the Eddies’ area that resulted in zero shots on target.
In the 55th minute, Edmonton’s Tobias Warschewski would get his squad a second goal, tapping a cross in off the post around a sprawling Sirois. This marks the first time Sirois has conceded more than once in a match.
Just eight minutes later, Amer Didic would make it 3-0 with a header off of a corner kick. If it wasn’t an uphill enough battle for Valour before, it certainly was at this point.
As if things weren’t rough enough, Valour started making a lot more unnecessary errors, none more confusing than Jared Ulloa in the 76th minute, saving Valour from giving up a throw-in by conceding a corner instead. The little mental mistakes like that were really what cost Rob Gale’s side in the end. Working your way up the pitch against an already stingy defence is hard, but your last touch being an “oops” out of bounds to give away possession just can’t be a thing.
What I do like a lot about this Valour side is that they never give up. Even when they’re down 3-0, they will still push to score. In the 87th minute, Andy Baquero blasted a shot off the rear-end of Ulloa to make it 3-1 and ruin the clean sheet that James and the Eddies were enjoying.
Valour is a very talented team, but this match was definitely not a demonstration of their abilities. We know they are better than this because they showed us over and over during the bubble that they had the pieces to win against any squad this league can serve up. This is, after all, just the third loss by the Winnipeg team. There are three teams in the league that don’t even have that many wins.
Now is not the time to panic. There is a lot of season left in 2021, and Valour hasn’t really put all their pieces together yet. We did see Masta Kacher in the last bubble match against HFX Wanderers, we saw Romeo join the club this week and get the start today, Brett Levis got on the field for the first time this year, and Arnold Bouka-Moutou made his 2021 debut after an injury-riddled 2020 campaign.
All that fails to mention José Galan is also eventually going to hit the pitch as well, and he’s arguably one of the best players in that locker room. Gale was not able to say when Galan would return, but he did say that Galan didn’t travel with the club, so the earliest we will see Galan would be August 16th back at IG Field, if he’s healthy enough by then.
At the end of the day, this Valour squad knows how good it is, and it will be a matter of adjusting to the road, to the travel, and to the chaos of other team’s facilities. It doesn’t seem like any of the players or staff are worried about the team in any way. They will put in the work and be ready for their next match on Wednesday, August 5th at Starlight Stadium against Pacific FC.