Going into this match, Valour sits in 6th place, which is 2 spots out of the playoffs, in stark contrast to how they ended the bubble — in 1st overall. Now 5 points behind HFX Wanderers and 6 points behind York United, they have to change direction and do it immediately.
Austin Ricci was out, having had surgery on gameday, but Rocco Romeo would make his return after missing 3 matches due to suspension. With both Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Daryl Fordyce sitting in the press box, Brett Levis would don the captain’s armband to start the match. Also, after Matt Silva had started the previous 3 matches, Jonathan Sirois would start in net for Winnipeg.
Brand new Head Coach and General Manager Phillip Dos Santos would be looking to see how each player performs. According to the gaffer, he’s looking for who shows the most improvement. “It’s about growth,” he said.
The match began in a rather unfortunate way for Valour, with a penalty kick awarded to Pacific in the 2nd minute when Rocco Romeo took down Alejandro Diaz in the area. Diaz would be the player to line up over the ball and slide it past a helpless Jonathan Sirois to give Pacific a 1-0 lead in the 3rd minute of play. Needless to say, it would be an uphill battle from there.
Following the penalty, Valour took control of much of the match. While statistics will show a fairly even amount of possession in the first half, even skewing a bit in Pacific’s favour, it was really Valour that was determining the pace of play for the bulk of the half.
In the 30th minute, Valour would finally find their way through when Ohin flicked a cross ahead to Moses Dyer, who then slid the ball across the pace of play into the back of the net. The New Zealander looked calm, cool, and collected while he drew Valour level.
Valour would not escape the half unscathed, as in the 45th minute Diaz would take advantage of a gaff by the normally sure-footed Stefan Cebara to give Pacific back their lead. As usual, it’s the small errors that cost Valour.
Despite Valour dominating in possession after half-time, the second half was largely uneventful. That is, until the 69th minute when Spanish striker Victor Blasco drilled a low shot home from outside the area making it a 2-goal lead for Pacific. Just like that, time was no longer a friend to Valour. With just 21 minutes left before added time, Valour was now in a hurry.
Valour would spend the rest of the half passing around their backline, seldom moving up the pitch towards goal. Each time they would move up, the attack would fizzle out, whether due to good defending or unfortunate bounces.
There is a reason Pacific FC sits atop the league table, and Valour once again stood witness to that. Even when you could argue that Valour controlled the pace of play today, it took just 3 mistakes for Pacific to score 3 goals. You absolutely can NOT afford to make errors against this squad. They will make you pay.
It’s hard to find positives to discuss when the team has gone 1-2-10 in their last 13 matches played, but there were some bright spots. First, Dyer’s goal shows more of the ‘sharing the wealth’ strategy that can help teams be competitive when they don’t have a singular go-to goal scorer. I thought Ohin also played very well today, using his speed and skill to make players miss and just generally making good decisions all day. Even Pacific Head Coach Pa-Modou Kah admitted that Valour controlled a lot of the action today.
So there are a lot of good things happening for Valour, but the required results are not forthcoming.
Again, it’s the little mistakes that are costing this team so dearly. “Pacific did not make mistakes today,” said Dos Santos after the match, “and Valour did make mistakes.”