Entering the stadium today, Valour FC was surely in desperation mode. While a loss today wouldn’t mathematically eliminate them completely, the odds of recovering and earning a playoff spot drop significantly with each passing match.
FC Edmonton was equally desperate, sitting 11 points out of a playoff spot. Edmonton has enjoyed most of its success against Valour this year. Of their 4 wins on the year, 2 of those came against Valour.
Captain Daryl Fordyce is back after serving a suspension, but defender Rocco Romeo was out, serving his second suspension of the season. Austin Ricci and Andrew Jean-Baptiste would keep Romeo company in the press box.
On “Portuguese Day” at IG Field, many Portugal supporters descended on the stadium. There was even a live band playing before the match and again at half-time. The San Carlos Band warmed up the crowd prior to kickoff, then entertained the masses again in the 15-minute half-time window.
Possession was almost all Valour in the opening minutes. This team looked determined, but not desperate. Even when they weren’t in possession, they gave Edmonton zero space to move. All signs point to Valour being more hungry for the win than their opponent on the day, which was welcome news for Valour supporters.
In the 13th minute, Moses Dyer was full-on tackled from behind, CFL style, by Eddies keeper Darlington Murasiranwa in the area, leading to a penalty kick being awarded to Valour. How no card was given on the play is a mystery to me, but the officiating this year hasn’t exactly been the definition of “consistent,” so I guess that’s just how things are.
While originally it looked like Murasiranwa had made the save on Dyer’s PK attempt, it was ruled that he had come off his line early in order to do so. As a result, Dyer was given another opportunity, which he did not squander.
Valour and Edmonton traded a few opportunities throughout the remainder of the half. Edmonton’s best chance would come in the 39th minute but Jonathan Sirois single-handedly thwarted that push by making a couple of diving saves. You could tell Sirois had “clean sheet” at the forefront of his mind.
Official stats reveal that Valour maintained 59.5% of possession in the first frame.
The second half was a story about massive amounts of Valour possession. Valour owned the ball for the bulk of the frame and made it very difficult for Edmonton to make any movement last.
Despite dominating the Eddies in the possession category, Valour would concede in the 67th minute. A rather well-placed cross got behind the Valour backline and found Easton Ongaro, who would tap it in for an easy goal. With that, Sirois’ hopes of another clean sheet went out the window.
After Ongaro’s equalizer, Valour’s shape began to collapse a little bit, leading to a few more chances for Edmonton in the following minutes. These were scary-but-familiar moments to the Valour faithful in the stands. Many a 1-goal lead has ended in a loss for Valour this season, so the supporters in The Trench began upping their chanting game, hopeful that their encouragement would help turn the momentum back around.
In the end, neither team was able to break the tie, resulting in the draw neither side can really afford.
Valour keeps improving. I think it’s slower than fans or the front office would like, hence the release of Rob Gale just over a week ago, but Valour is gaining ground. I’m not the only one that sees this progress, either.
“I feel that every day there’s growth,” says Head Coach and General Manager Phil Dos Santos. “I look at the team and go back to that first game we played with conceding so many chances to the opposition and so many shots. Two games back-to-back again today, very difficult for Edmonton to play through us through the middle. I think that we’re doing a better job of keeping things tight.”
If anyone was expecting Dos Santos to have an immediate effect on the outcome of games, I believe that was a little optimistic. However, in the long run, I think he will do a lot of good.
A source close to the team has said that the players seem to like Dos Santos, and here’s hoping that means they will all buy into whatever his plans are going forward, and he certainly has plans.
Dos Santos told me, “I’m not trying to figure out what we want to be about, I know exactly what I want the team to look like.” He was very clear that he does, indeed, have a vision for the club, and now it’s about execution. “I looked at the individuals. If we could maximize their potential inside what my ideas of a team and my ideas of the game are, and what I want to see in this team going forward. And that’s what we’re working on, not thinking about what was before. The only thing that I think about is the players. The players that were already here.”
He seems to recognize that certain players have adapted quicker than others, though he did not name which players were which.
I think the new-look Valour FC is not searching for, but has already begun the rebuilding process. Dos Santos wants to win, saying, “We want to build a culture of winning. It’s going to take the time that it will take, but we want this to happen here in Winnipeg. That’s a desire that I have and that’s the language that I’ll have in the locker room.”
Valour will be back in action at home this Tuesday, October 5th, 2021 against Cavalry FC.