Call it a 90-minute snapshot of Valour FC’s entire 2023 Canadian Premier League season: occasional dominant stretches overshadowed by missed chances and the continued mishandling of key moments.
And a heathy dose of misfortune, too.
Valour’s fleeting playoff hopes suffered another critical blow Sunday in a 3-2 loss to Forge FC in front of 3,311 at IG Field in a match in which they surrendered a 2-1 second half lead, including the winner in the 84th minute.
As a result, Valour fell to 5-8-11 and with 23 points remain in seventh place in the standings with just four matches remaining. Forge, meanwhile, improved to 10-9-6.
“It’s frustrating,” began Valour forward Kian Williams. “We had opportunities to carry the game and 2-1 up I felt we could have kept it that way. But it’s kind of been the story of our season – making mistakes at key moments and it’s stuff like that that’s kind of killed us. I don’t know whether it’s bad luck or… sometimes you create your own bad luck.
“I felt we played well throughout the game, but it’s so frustrating.”
Valour fell behind in the 11th minute when Rayane Yesli mis-timed attacking a Forge entry, with Aboubacar Sissoko then beating him with a shot into a gaping net for the match’s first marker.
To their credit, Valour then matched that goal just over two minutes later when Williams scored his fourth of the season following some solid work on the wing by Matteo de Brienne.
After generating chance after chance in the first half Valour then took their first lead early in the second when de Brienne gobbled up a loose ball before Forge goalkeeper Triston Henry could squeeze it, using his speed and determination to put the home side ahead.
De Brienne goal
But as been the case for so much of the ’23 season, Valour mismanaged two moments after that, with both getting behind Yesli. First came the equalizer by Woobens Pacius in the 66th minute with the winning goal – a free kick by Beni Badiganga that deflected off the wall before bouncing in – representative of Valour’s misfortune on the day and the season.
“We fought, we played a good game overall, but I also know – and I’m not delusional here – many teams in this league will be in every game because there is such a parity,” said Valour GM and head coach Phillip Dos Santos. “But what makes a difference is being able to take care of the different moments; the moments where you could score and you don’t which, in today’s game, we had quite a few good looks at goal that could have gone our way – credit to (Triston) Henry.
“We just need to be more efficient in how we deal with certain moments with how we’re defending. Those are moments we keep working on and have to stay on the guys for because the truth is there’s 48 hours and then we have another game right away.”
Indeed, Valour is right back at it on Wednesday when Vancouver FC pays a visit (7p.m.) in what will be the second last home match of the season. That’s worth noting for another reason – even though the club has yet to be mathematically eliminated from the playoff race, management is already eyeing 2024 in its evaluations.
“Even though we’re 100 percent in this season until we’re mathematically out, we also need to be very realistic and stay on what we can take now for what the future is going to look like,” said Dos Santos.
“… Right now, I don’t want to dwell on the things that I can’t control or the things that have passed. I have to look at the positives and see what this team has built as a foundation and as a platform and the type of players that are here and game after game after game given so much to the team and build from that. And we know what our deficiencies are and what we need to 100 percent improve. Some is work, some is maturity, some is a change of approach, but sometimes it’s also individuals and making sure we better certain positions, which I know today need to happen.”
-Valour welcomed back winger Pacifique Niyongabire from his stint with Burundi’s national team at the Africa Cup of Nations. Burundi fell 3-0 to Cameroon in the Group state. Niyongabire came on in the 73rd minute, replacing de Brienne.
Valour FC 2 Forge FC 3
12:05’: Kian Williams (assist: Matteo de Brienne)
56:54’: Matteo de Brienne
10:04’: Aboubacar Sissoko (assist: Manjkrekar James)
65:10’: Woobens Pacius (assist: Rezart Rama)
83:06’: Beni Badibanga
81:44’: Guillaume Pianelli (yellow, tactical foul)
26:48’: Rezart Rama (yellow, reckless offence)
34:07’: Khadim Kane (yellow, reckless offence)
58:00’: Bobby Smyrniotis (yellow, dissent)
58:24’: Beni Badibanga (yellow, dissent)
87:53’: Woobens Pacius (yellow, reckless offence)
VALOUR STARTING XI
GK – Rayane Yesli
D – Jordan Haynes
D – Klaidi Cela
D – Guillaume Pianelli
D – Dante Campbell
MF – Diego Gutierrez ©
MF – Marcello Polisi
MF – Juan-Pablo Sanchez
FW – Matteo De Brienne
FW – Walter Ponce
F – Kian Williams
72:39’: On Jared Ulloa; off Waltert Ponce
72:50’: On Pacifique Niyongabire; off Matteo de Brienne
72:51’: On Andy Baquero; off Juan-Pablo Sanchez
85:40’: On Ahinga Selemani; off Jordan Haynes