Valour FC’s road woes continue after dropping all three previous matches, one of which was in Edmonton. In general, Valour has been trending in the wrong direction. Having lost four straight matches, including the last match of the bubble at home in Winnipeg, they have still somehow managed to stay in third place in the league, just three points back of the leaders, Pacific FC, with a game in hand.
FC Edmonton has struggled to maintain any type of consistency. In their last six matches, they have two wins, two draws, and two losses. The positives they take from that would likely be the facts that they beat Valour, who dominated the bubble, and they most recently drew to the very dangerous Pacific squad.
The Eddies are a team that gets up and plays hard every time they take to the pitch. As Valour is quite aware, Edmonton absolutely has the skills to punish opponents for any and all mistakes they might make.
Overall, Valour dominated the possession statistic throughout the first half. They seemed calm, organized, and more than content to make the lateral passes required to maintain possession. That said, they showed problems in the final third, where they were mostly unable to get past the Eddies’ backline.
Similar to their previous meeting at Clarke Field, Edmonton certainly had their chances on the counter, with no better example than that of a 30th-minute opportunity by six-foot-six Canadian striker Easton Ongaro. The danger was only averted when Ongaro whiffed on a shot attempt from about twelve yards out before having the bouncing ball hit him and end up in Valour keeper Matthew Silva’s hands. While the play ended without a goal, the window was very clearly open for it. Rob Gale’s crew will want to have a chat about closing those types of windows in the second half.
The second half started with a bit of a concerning moment for Gale and his squad, as Austin Ricci blocked a hard shot attempt in the 48th minute… with his nose. He would eventually be okay.
In the 58th minute, Moses Dyer turned a defender inside out and blasted a shot off the crossbar. This was Valour’s most dangerous attack of the game to this point.
The back-and-forth style of the game was slow-going as Valour’s possession pushed them calmly up the field and the frantic counterattack by Edmonton brought the ball back to the other end quickly, but without any cohesive build-up or final threat on goal. Rinse and repeat.
Valour FC would have to settle for their first draw of the season despite seriously dominating the match. The result will be a welcome 1 point, given how the rest of the road trip had gone.
The game was heavily controlled by Valour through purposeful possession and a lot of accurate passing. That said, they didn’t use that possession to push the pace of the game. All their passing was telegraphed and marking the ball handler was an easy task for Edmonton. They didn’t use their possession to open up lanes and push the Eddies backline. Oddly, it almost seemed as if the game plan was to slow the game down and lull Edmonton to sleep somehow.
While the lack of possession did seem to frustrate the home team, the actual effect on the game seemed minimal. With the speed and conditioning of the bulk of Gale’s players, one would think the right idea would be to push the pace while in possession, particularly given how much possession they were enjoying.
Andy Baquero has a ton of talent. He’s clearly very skilled with the ball. That said, I think he makes too many small mistakes. He’s always looking to make the “cute” play instead of the easy or obvious play. While he carries the ball, everything looks amazing. The end of his possessions are the issue, in my humble opinion. Whether it be the no-look flick-on to nobody, the chip into the middle of the pitch where there are zero teammates, or carrying the ball and waiting until the last possible moment in an attempt to draw the defenders very close and then try to force the ball into very small spaces. When it works, it’s beautiful, sure. But it very rarely works.
I’d like to see Baquero make passes earlier, you know, before defenders are standing on top of him. I’d like to see him lose the no-look passes altogether, and then we could see how much more effective his skills could be. This guy is a great player, but his mistakes and giveaways have quite often led to counter opportunities for the opposition.
Overall, this was a much better game by Valour than the previous Clarke Field visit. They needed to end the road trip with at least 1 point, and they managed that. There isn’t any concern in the dressing room, apparently. Gale said, “The attitude in the room is just fine, there’s no panic.”
Valour will play their next game at home on August 16th. See you at IG Field.