Happy to be home after a rough road trip, Valour FC is winless in their last five matches with four losses and a draw. They hope that home-field advantage helps right this ship before they take on too much water.
At the other end of the pitch, Pacific FC is surging and, with three wins and two draws, they are undefeated in their last five tilts. Leading the league, it doesn’t seem to phase them whether they play at home or away.
Despite their recent form, Valour was only 3 points behind Pacific heading into this match.
Compared to their most recent game, the start of this game showed improvement right out of the gate. In the opening minutes they displayed all the control and possession that we have come to expect, but this time there was a little more urgency in their movement. Within the first ten minutes alone, Valour managed a couple of dangerous scoring opportunities. I think many fans would like to have seen even more pace and offensive pressure, but a little improvement is still an improvement.
What little possession Pacific FC did enjoy during that time was defended well by the men in maroon. The fullbacks moved to support one another quite smoothly. Cebara, in particular, has been a rock for Rob Gale, having played every single minute of Valour FC football this season so far. In the entire CPL, only Cebara and Pacific FC’s Lukas Macnaughton can make that claim.
To start the match, Peña looked extra determined not to let anything slip past him, likely due to the thought of the lone error he made at Starlight Stadium, which allowed Pacific’s Marco Bustos to score the winner in the 87th minute of the August 4th match. Even for a professional, it must be frustrating to know you played such a solid game but despite that, the one error you did make cost the team a much-needed point. His quality of play on this day showed a lot of effort to redeem himself, but he would struggle through much of the match, eventually being subbed off in favour of Tony Mikhael in the 77th minute.
In the 29th minute, despite trailing in possession, Pacific FC would strike with what would be a rather impressive team goal. Alejandro Diaz would be the man at the end of the play whose name will go onto the scoresheet, but the build-up went through a number of Pacific’s players before sliding across the mouth of the goal, leaving no chance for a sprawling Jonathan Sirois.
After the goal, possession began to swing the other way until about the 40th minute, when Valour pushed pretty hard. As a result, a few chances came from a free-kick, a few corners, and a nice cross, all off the foot of Rafael Galhardo. One of those corners ended up being the last play of the half, and by far the closest Valour came to scoring the equalizer.
Valour came out in the second half with a chip on their shoulder. They would push with even more of that urgency and pace with which we saw them start the match. Were it not for some heroic saves from Pacific keeper Callum Irving, there could have been a couple of Valour FC goals in the first five to ten minutes of the half.
In a move that nearly mimicked their first goal, Pacific would get their signals just right and put on a passing display that culminated in another beautifully worked team goal. Finished by Terran Campbell, the 73rd-minute marker makes this game 2-0.
With roughly ten minutes remaining, Valour’s frustration began to show. Players began arguing among themselves on the pitch, and the calm possession game disappeared into the ether. Also, every time a call didn’t go their way they looked to the referee instead of keeping their focus on the ball and the play that was still ongoing. It was a frustrating end to a frustrating day.
Rafael Galhardo is whole again. If you were questioning, like I was, how his conditioning was coming along following his lengthy quarantine plus his attempts to adjust to the CPL and more specifically Valour’s style, then your answer is evident. He has arrived. Immediately upon subbing on in the 4th minute in relief of an injured Brett Levis, he made his presence known. His running, his ball-handling, his decision-making, his passing, and his set pieces are all looking so sharp. As a matter of fact, I had him down as Valour’s best player for most, if not all, of today’s match.
Valour’s passing was atrocious today, overall. While Pacific put on a passing clinic on the day, Valour had a hard time stringing more than two passes together in the final third. Between their inability to play a decent through-ball and their slow build-up pace, Valour did a lot of Pacific’s defending for them. For a team trying to avoid sliding out of a playoff spot, they will need to do better, in nearly every category.
I hope Peña doesn’t let this match get into his head. He had a very poor performance on the day, but he has shown that he’s a quality player that certainly deserves to be there. I hope he can remember the old adage, “One game does not a season make.” There is a lot of good football left in the man this year, but we only saw about ten minutes worth of it today. I have faith that he’ll bounce back.
Injuries have been a huge factor for Valour. Andrew Jean-Baptiste is out for the season, Keven Alemán is also currently hurt, and we still have yet to see José Galán this year at all.
Gale believes that between the aforementioned injuries, the demanding travel schedule, and lack of training time between matches, it’s a bit of an uphill struggle at the moment. “We’re disappointed,” says Gale, “we’re not going to take a positive from this.”
Valour’s next match will be August 24th at IG Field. Hopefully, they can shake off the last half-dozen matches before FC Edmonton gets into town.