Every aspect of the math for Valour FC – the probabilities, the odds, etc. – is ugly.
The playoff window for Winnipeg’s Canadian Premier League squad has been closing slowly for weeks now, and with just eight regular season matches remain we’ve officially reached crunch time.
Now 4-8-8 on the season for 20 points, Valour is in seventh place in the CPL standings – nine points out of a playoff spot. The team holding down the fifth and final spot, by the way, is the club hosting Valour FC Saturday afternoon – HFX Wanderers.
“Human nature is for us to keep fighting as long as we have a chance,” said GM and head coach Phillip Dos Santos before the club departed for Nova Scotia. “Nobody in the locker room has quit, put a head down for felt sorry for themselves.
“Right now, we’re fully aware the window is getting smaller. It’s on us to try and change things and get on a run to have a chance so that three-four games from now we are back in the fight. We’ve got three difficult games on the road now and we’re preparing for that. What encourages me is the guys still believe and still work hard in training. They’re committed to the process and that, for a coach, is the most important thing.
“You can’t control when or how the ball is going to go in, but you can control how you’re going to show up and work and commit to see if things change. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Valour’s eight matches remaining include three straight on the road, beginning with Saturday in Halifax and followed by visits to Pacific FC (September 2) and York FC (September 8). Five of the final eight are away from home, with the three remaining home matches coming on September 17 (Forge FC), September 20 (Vancouver FC) and September 29 (Cavalry FC).
Valour has just 17 goals in 20 matches, with its 0.85 goals scored per match the lowest in the CPL. The team remains decent defensively, with the 1.25 goals conceded per match a respectable fourth.
“We have to stop thinking (the lack of goals) is bad luck,” Dos Santos said. “The reality is we need to question everything. It’s everyone. It’s been difficult this year to find those key goals in key moments. This year we haven’t had anyone that has stepped up in those moments.
“We have to find solutions internally and as a staff we’re working towards that. Everyone is frustrated. Sometimes it’s even discouraging, but we can’t dwell on things. We have to keep fighting and keep working. For me there’s no other way and I think the character in the locker room sees it the same way.”
Valour’s last match, a 3-1 home loss to Atlético Ottawa, was a microcosm of Valour’s season. The club conceded early with a soft goal 10 minutes in and then, despite some quality chances, fell behind 2-0 before a goal before halftime, then 3-0, before Marcello Polisi’s goal of the year candidate came in vain late.
“The takeaway from that one is football is made of moments,” said Dos Santos. “We started the game well and were completely in control and we conceded a goal that, for all the good (goalkeeper) Rayane (Yesli) has given us, it’s one he would probably like to see again. He has admitted that. But defensively we weren’t good in the action and didn’t deal with that moment well, either.
“After that we had at least three very good chances to equalize, and we don’t capitalize. Nathan Ingham came up big for them on numerous occasions and then we find ourselves down 2-0 at halftime. Then it’s another mountain to climb. Until we learn to be a team that capitalizes on our opportunities and deals with the moments that we need to make these defensive plays it’s always going to be hard for us.
“That’s been the story of our season this year. Often, we are the better team when you look at the entire 90 minutes but the only statistic that matters in football is the final score.”
-Valour will have versatile midfielder/defender Dante Campbell available again after he served his four-match suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Even with his absence, Campbell leads the CPL with 33 interceptions.