Pacific FC find themselves level with Forge FC in the Canadian Premier League table at 25 points each. Just 3 points or “one win” behind them is our own Valour FC.
Having just toppled the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canadian Championship, Pacific is on a confidence high. Taking an MLS team down is something that all CPL teams hope to do, but being part of that had to give the whole organization a boost. That said, Pacific didn’t exactly lack confidence prior to the clash between the two BC clubs. They do have four separate players with three or more goals on the season, so it’s not like scoring goals has been an issue for Pa-Modou Kah’s squad.
Valour, on the other hand, has struggled lately. That said, their last two matches ended in victory, and the most recent match against FC Edmonton was probably Valour’s best performance since the conclusion of the bubble at the end of July.
Both teams wanted to take their recent successes and ride the momentum they have built up, so we, the fans, would be expecting a full-throttle start to today’s match.
A HIGH-SCORING AFFAIR
To say the first half was “fast-paced” would be an understatement. The play was quite back-and-forth, with quick movements and a focus on forward progress from both sides.
Unfortunately for Valour, that ebb and flow style only resulted in one goal for them, where Pacific managed to turn in three before the conclusion of the frame.
After Alejandro Diaz scored in the 11th minute, Austin Ricci would reply by netting one in the 17th minute. That was the end of Valour’s contributions to the score sheet in the half, but Pacific would add one in the 22nd minute by Matteo Polisi and another in the 35th minute by Terran Campbell.
Upon examination, you’d likely agree that Valour would need to make fewer mistakes while in possession in order to offer a proper comeback attempt. Many of Pacific’s dangerous attacks came on the heels of a Valour giveaway. At the risk of “stating the obvious,” Pacific is a dangerous team on their own, so giving them the ball by making a silly error is extremely unwise.
The pace of the second half was somehow even higher than the first. Valour began with a clear urgency, and Pacific wasn’t about to sit back on their end. The home side would make sure that with every pass, and every touch by a Valour player, there was a purple shirt in their face, pressuring. Pacific was looking to force more errors, but Valour would sharpen up their movements and their passing became all the more accurate and purposeful. Rob Gale’s halftime speech must have included clear instructions not to give them an inch.
In the 57th minute, Ricci would lay off a “gimme” to Keven Alemán, who somehow managed to miss a wide-open net. This seemed to be a fairly decent representation of how Valour’s day would go. Bad bounces and bad luck would essentially be the story of the second half for the Winnipeg-based club.
Valour looked the more dangerous side in the second half, but only a penalty kick by Keven Alemán would allow them to score and bring the match within one goal, and even that didn’t come until the 86th minute.
Five minutes of added time gave hope to the visitors, but Pacific’s time-wasting game proved to be on point. Although Valour kept pressing forward and troubled the defence, they couldn’t exploit their chances to score.
I watched this game from the comfort of my own home, and I nearly lost my voice from the number of “shoot the ball” screams that left my lips. This valour roster has so much skill, but when it comes time to actually take a shot, it’s been frustrating as a fan of the club. Either the ball handler looks for a pass when there is a clear shooting opportunity, or (and this one is where I start yelling at my screen) the ball handler has a large shooting window but chooses to take another touch to get the “perfect” shooting position, which generally ends in a blocked shot ninety-nine percent of the time.
Rocco Romeo wearing the captain’s armband is a big positive, in my opinion. When I asked Gale what led to the decision to have Romeo wear the armband today, the Head Coach succinctly said, “He’s a leader.” In his short tenure thus far, Romeo has shown his leadership abilities on and off the field. I think it’s a good sign that the leadership of the team comes from so many places. It shows that no one or two players are driving the team forward. They are gelling as a crew and that can only be good for the future.
All in all, Winnipeg played a good road match and improved as the game went on, turning in a much better second-half performance, but fell to a powerhouse club that also played quite well. If Valour can play their game and avoid those costly giveaways in their next encounter, Pacific is a beatable team. There were a few opportunities for Valour to score today that ended with some bad luck, and that made the difference.
Valour’s next match will be at home against Cavalry FC on September 4th, giving them a full six days off. That many days off in a row has been a rarity this year and will give Gale and company some much-needed rest and planning time.