Yesterday was day one of a brand new era in Valour FC history. With the release of Rob Gale earlier this week, and the subsequent hiring of former Whitecaps FC coach Phillip Dos Santos, we now have an answer to the question that has been asked since the current losing skid began. That answer is, “No, Rob Gale’s job is not safe.”
Dos Santos has his work cut out for him, stepping into a situation where only ten fixtures remain in the CPL campaign, and the club is not currently sitting in a playoff position. On top of that, the Valour faithful are largely pro-Gale. Many think Dos Santos has big shoes to fill.
Valour left the Winnipeg bubble in first place overall, and since the bubble burst, they have only earned five points. With the injuries, suspensions, and other mitigating circumstances, it would be easy to defend Gale and the unfortunate results Valour has seen since the end of July. While many fans would go to bat for “the coach with yellow hair,” as Gale is fondly known, the decision is not up to them. Instead, the decision is up to the Winnipeg Football Club and, ultimately, Valour FC President and CEO Wade Miller.
In a statement to the press, Miller said, “I want to thank Rob for all his work in our organization, for laying a strong foundation for the Club, and for his best efforts in coaching the club. This is a results-driven business and those results have fallen short of our expectations.”
On the subject of Dos Santos, Miller said, “We have a good group [of] players in our locker room and I have no doubt that Phillip will work to improve our results to make Valour fans proud in the years ahead. Phillip has vast experience coaching at the professional level. We are excited to have him join the Valour FC family and work with our talented players and assistant coaches.”
Yesterday, the challenge for Dos Santos would be to apply all of the knowledge he gained in just two training sessions to evaluate player positions, formations, strategies, and chemistry. While a win is something the franchise desperately needed, I would think Dos Santos would be feeling little to no pressure going into game one with his new squad.
York FC came prepared to take another victory in their home stadium, having only lost once in their last six matches. Their most recent loss came at the hands of Forge FC on August 28th. If York managed a win, they would have gone undefeated through the entire month of September.
By the 25th minute, both sides had managed to open up a couple of offensive opportunities, but both sides also essentially squandered them. In the 27th minute, however, a patient Brett Levis took advantage of a fortunate bounce and calmly slid a ball past a sprawling Nathan Ingham into the York United net.
After the (much needed) first goal, Valour seemed to come alive. The Winnipeg club started pressing more, resulting in a few scoring chances over the following ten minutes.
In the 43rd minute, Levis nearly had another chance from an almost identical spot in the box but was taken down hard with no call on the play. While it certainly could have been called a penalty, referee Scott Bowman decided not to use his whistle to award Valour with a potential second marker.
While I haven’t mentioned him yet, it is important to note that Matt Silva played very well in the half. He wasn’t challenged too heavily but was sharp in the few moments he was needed.
In the 55th minute, Diyaeddine Abzi would play a precision through-ball directly onto the foot of Lowell Wright in stride, who needed only direct the beautiful pass into the back of Valour’s net to tie the game up at 1-1.
In what is becoming “classic Valour style,” the small mistakes would prove costly in the end. While the first York United goal was well-earned with some skillful ball movement, the second York goal would come as a result of an unfortunately timed giveaway in the Valour area. Just by being in the right place at the right time, Wright would get his second of the day in the 61st minute after former Valour player Michael Petrasso forced Stefan Cebara into giving him the ball in a dangerous place.
Despite some pushes and a generous six added minutes, Valour would be unable to equalize, thereby dropping another one to a team that was behind them in the standings until a week ago. The final score was 2-1.
I imagine that no objective person can be for or against Dos Santos at this point. There simply isn’t enough evidence one way or the other to make a call at this point about how he will fit in Winnipeg. Dos Santos, himself, acknowledged this fact himself, saying, “I arrived Thursday, or Wednesday very late at night, I was introduced on Thursday. There was no session on Thursday. We had two training sessions.” He also made clear he was up to the challenge going forward. “I adapt very quick. I understand that this is what the game is all about,” he said, “you need to be able to adapt.”
We shall see how Dos Santos settles in over the remainder of the season, but I have to think that while he will do everything he can to help this team get to the playoffs this year, next year is truly his clean slate start. Coming into a situation like the one in which Valour currently finds itself, Dos Santos can’t feel a lot of pressure to win this year.
I was a fan of Gale while he was here and have, numerous times, argued that he should be allowed to finish his contract and see his vision through. I’m sad to see him go, but I absolutely understand that, after all is said and done, this is a business. This decision wasn’t personal, and I believe Gale knows that.
We here at The WPG Magazine thank Rob Gale for his time here and the fine work he put in building this club from literally nothing. We send our best wishes to him and his family in their future endeavours.
In the eleven matches Valour has played since the bubble ended, a potential 33 points were available to them, of which they have earned just 5. With only 23 total points, Valour occupies the sixth spot in the league table, a far cry from the first-place perch they enjoyed after the bubble. They still have a good chance of making the playoffs if they turn this ship around, starting with their upcoming home game on September 29th when Marco Bustos and league-leading Pacific FC come to town.