I’m the kind of person that normally hits every single red light when I’m driving. I always get stuck behind the slowest student driver, accidents, emergency vehicles, and I’ve even been rear-ended three times since moving to this province.
Today, however, I hit almost every green light, and I saw a number of emergency vehicles but didn’t get stuck behind any of them. I even drove through Confusion Corner in Osborne Village without even stopping once. Maybe today is just different. Maybe, just maybe, we’d see a Valour FC win since everything else was lining up for me? I’m not superstitious or anything like that, but I’m definitely grasping at straws when it comes to supporting this club lately, and I don’t think I’m the only one.
With just one lone win in their last 14 fixtures, there is no time like the present to begin the turnaround. Valour’s last win came on August 24th against FC Edmonton. Head Coach and General Manager Phil Dos Santos did change the formation ahead of today’s game, which is going to give the team a new look on the pitch.
With 35 points, Cavalry FC is currently ranked second in the standings. They don’t give up points easily, so Valour will have their hands full in this clash.
It’s not usually good form to discuss the officiating, but it became the main story at the outset of the match. In the first 15 minutes alone there were a handful of questionable rulings made by the man in the middle, David Barrie. Three, in particular, were unquestionably the wrong decisions upon review, all of which went against the home side. The supporters in The Trench were not shy about expressing their displeasure at the calls.
During those controversial opening minutes, Jared Ulloa was able to get in on goal multiple times but was thwarted by Cavalry keeper Marco Carducci.
At the end of the first quarter-hour, the visiting Cavalry were lucky to have kept the match level, thanks in part to Mr. Barrie and his odd decisions.
The game, and the officiating, calmed down a little after starting with a bit of fervour. Even with the more settled pace, Valour controlled the pace of play and looked more comfortable in possession than their opponents.
That said, Cavalry’s defending was on point. They were handling Valour’s advances well, closing down the ball carriers, and forcing Valour to retreat and regroup.
The first 45 minutes ended with a nil-nil scoreline, despite a lot of action. The visitors should be happier about that than the home side, given that Valour’s chances, while fewer, were immensely more threatening.
The opening moments of half number two belonged to Cavalry, who frustrated Valour’s backline and had multiple chances to score. In the end, Jonathan Sirois, my pick for “Best Player in the Bubble” made all the difference.
Once again, after the initial burst of chaos, the game settled back down and we saw a more balanced battle ensue.
Of note in this match up to this point was Jared Ulloa’s crossing abilities, which were on full display. He had made more than a few beautiful crosses into the area, and several found Valour players on the receiving end. Unfortunately for Valour, none of those touches ended in a goal for the increasingly desperate Winnipeg franchise.
The pace of the half grew faster as the game went on, with both teams going back and forth into each other’s area, creating a general sense of panic for both keepers on a rotating basis. If it weren’t for the two goaltenders, this would have been a much different game.
While I wouldn’t call the defending “poor” on either side, the two offences were simply explosive, creating a very energetic, entertaining match.
Even with all the action and chaos, it would all end in a surprisingly exciting scoreless draw.
This was arguably one of the best zero-goal games I’ve seen in the short history of the CPL, and undeniably Valour’s best full game since the bubble ended. Every player out there pushed hard and worked together. They had chemistry out there that we have rarely seen since the end of July.
They didn’t fiddle around with the ball in dangerous areas as we’ve seen in the past. This was something that Dos Santos acknowledged they had worked on. “We have told them that there are certain areas where you just don’t mess around,” said the gaffer.
If I was the person that got to choose a “man of the match” today, it would be a toss-up between Carducci, Sirois, and Ulloa. The keepers had an absolute battle today and you could argue that they both won, with clean sheets all around, including Dos Santos’ first as Head Coach.
Speaking of Ulloa, I feel like this was a break-out game for the young Peruvian. He was everywhere for his squad today. His hustle was unmatched, his crosses were deadly accurate, and he had a few chances to score himself. He was, in my eyes, the best player on the pitch (aside from the two keepers, as I said). I look forward to seeing how much more he will grow under the direction of the multilingual Dos Santos. I truly feel that the new coach’s ability to speak to Ulloa in his native Spanish is a huge factor in how comfortable and effective he was on the pitch today. He seemed to fully understand the strategy from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, which has not been his modus operandi since his arrival, in my opinion. He looked like a new man out there today, and I’m extremely glad to see that.
So, after earning points in back-to-back matches, can Dos Santos’ Valour carry this momentum on to fight their way back into playoff contention? Time will tell, I suppose.
Valour’s next match is on Thanksgiving Monday, October 11th, against Forge FC at IG Field. It is one of just two remaining home games this year, so get your tickets, folks. I think we are in for a wild ride as the club looks to climb back into the top four with only six games left to play.