They finished with a valiant and courageous effort, but the last rites have been administered on Valour FC at the Canadian Premier League’s Island Games.
Needing a win and some help in their final match of the First Stage, Valour battled to a 2-2 draw with the defending North Shield champions Saturday afternoon at UPEI Alumni Field in Charlottetown, PEI.
The result left Valour with two wins, two draws and three losses for eight points in the opening round, but on the outside looking in as one of the four teams to advance to the next stage.
“I’m so proud of the boys to leave it all out there,” Valour GM and head coach Rob Gale told OneSoccer after the match. “It wasn’t this game that cost us. It was the second half against Pacific when we should have put them to the sword (in a 2-nil defeat) and the Halifax game (a 2-nil loss they dominated).
“I couldn’t be prouder of their effort, commitment, quality and desire. The group has been absolutely first class. We’re just disappointed to be leaving, really, because we’ve proven it – we can match anybody in this league.”
Decimated by injuries and dressing injured players just to get to the 16 minimum, Valour was without dominant centre back Andrew Jean-Baptiste, along with midfielder/defender Stefan Cebara, who had played a ton of minutes in the tournament, along with another centre back in Chakib Hocine.
In Saturday’s draw – the first-ever point earned against Forge FC in six matches, by the way – both Yohan Le Bourhis, who started, and Raph Garcia were pressed into action for their first minutes of the tournament because of the long injured list.
“It felt like one of those TV shows where you’re in and around a hospital,” said Gale, “with everyone on the treatment table.”
Yet, after falling behind in the eighth minute on a defensive lapse that saw Forge’s Kyle Bekker bounce a rebound past a helpless James Pantemis, Valour took a 2-1 lead into halftime on headers by Le Bourhis and Moses Dyer in the 14th and 27th minutes on superb crosses by Brett Levis and Jose Galán, respectively.
Clearly fatigued in the second half, Forge found the equalizer on a set piece from Alexander Jonsson in the 65th minute. Valour would press continuously in attempt to get the game-winning goal after that — as Pantemis made two massive stops in the 72nd and 82nd minutes — with a Dylan Carreiro chance in the 83rd minute arguably the best opportunity.
“Some teams gel earlier, sooner than others,” began Dyer, who indicated he would try to get a loan agreement to keep playing. “You could see our team is really together and we’re building on something for next year. Something special.
“You can see the foundation. We’ve got heart. We’ve got desire and we’ve got quality.
“… It’s so disappointing that it’s finished now.”
Valour was to leave for Halifax Saturday night and then fly back to Winnipeg, through Toronto, on Sunday. After that, many players will be heading in different directions uncertain about what is ahead for them and for the squad.
“We won’t see these players again until March,” said Gale. “It’s a challenge. It is what it is. We know that. We’ll try and find as many outlets and environments because these boys need games, they need competitive environments.
“I think we need to look at it as a league. We need to do something between now and March because this idea of a tournament, like the MLS is Back one, would be awesome in January if we could get players back and in environments quicker.
“It’s a collective thing we need to search for for the good of the Canadian game.”
-Yohan Le Bourhis, 14’ (assist: Brett Levis)
-Moses Dyer, 27’ (assist: Jose Galán)
-Kyle Bekker, 8’
-Alexander Jonsson, 65’ (assist: Maxim Tissot)
42:20’ – Fraser Aird (yellow, time wasting)
58:37’ – Diego Gutiérrez (yellow, foul)
70:08’ – Jose Galán (yellow, dissent)
33:40’ – Bobby Smyrniotis (yellow)
VALOUR STARTING XI
GK James Pantemis
D Yohan Le Bourhis
D Julian Dunn
D Raphael Ohin
MF Federico Pena
MF Jose Galán
MF Brett Levis
MF Diego Gutiérrez
F Fraser Aird
F Moses Dyer
F Daryl Fordyce
41:10’ – On Dante Campbell, off Raphael Ohin
63:35’ – On Raphael Garcia, off Fraser Aird
63:42’ – On Arnold Bouka Moutou, off Brett Levis
68:18’ – On Austin Ricci, off Daryl Fordyce
68:28’ – On Dylan Carreiro, off Arnold Bouka Moutou