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This article was published 10/6/2019 (629 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Don’t let the scoreboard fool you.
Valour FC will be trailing as soon as Wednesday night’s soccer match at IG Field against the HFX Wanderers FC kicks off.
The two Canadian Premier League clubs are battling in the second-round qualifying matchup of the Canadian Championship tournament. The first leg was last Wednesday in Halifax, with the Wanderers coming away with a 2-1 victory to give them the advantage.
Valour needs a 1-0 win, or to score two more goals than Halifax in the second leg, to advance to the next round on aggregate. If Valour wins 2-1 on Wednesday, the teams will need penalty kicks to decide the series. The winner advances to the third round to play the Ottawa Fury of the United Soccer League.
"I think you have to approach the game very much in the same way as the start of any game. You have to," Valour assistant coach Damian Rocke said after Monday’s training session at IG Field.
"If you start to look ahead and start thinking about, ‘Do we need to get two goals? Do we need to score a third?’ That’s when you start to get caught in these mental traps and get away from actually playing properly. I think we come in with a clear focus and want to play good football."
The first leg was a disappointing result for Valour, especially considering midfielder Marco Bustos scored a crucial road goal in the 33rd minute to give the Winnipeg club an early a 1-0 lead. But the lead quickly vanished, and so did the tie, as Halifax scored in the 39th minute and then again less than two minutes later. The goals came against Valour’s Belgian-born goalie Mathias Janssens, who entered the game with a 2-0 record and had yet to allow a goal.
"Concentration, maybe," Valour midfielder Louis Béland-Goyette said on what went wrong in those dreadful two minutes. "We spoke about how we react maybe after goals. I think we don’t have the best reaction after goals. Sometimes we think, you know, maybe the game’s over, or we (got comfortable) because we had an away goal or something like that. And maybe we lack concentration and that’s how we end up giving a goal. Both of the goals were mistakes, I think, that we can get rid of because it’s concentration mistakes and all that, so I think it’s very important after the goals to just refocus."
The team better refocus soon as Wednesday night’s game is, arguably, the most important match thus far in Valour’s early existence. It’s the first time the team will play in a match that’s essentially do-or-die.
"If you don’t get the result, you’re out of the competition. So, this is a good test for the squad," Rocke said. "This is a good test for the club in terms of our mentality and our ability to look at that adversity and really come out not with the pressure, but absorb the pressure in a way mentally and respond to it in the right way. I think we’re looking forward to it."
Pressure will reach a whole new level if the score on aggregate is tied and the series has to be decided by penalty kicks — which is exactly what Valour worked on at the end of Monday’s practice, with players taking turns stepping into the box.
"I’ve rarely been in that situation, but I know we have some good finishers," Béland-Goyette said. "It’s all up in the moment. We see players right now, they take the ball, go to the spot and they finish and it’s no big deal. But then, try to put a bit of pressure in the game and all that. In my past, the players that put it in are cold-blooded and feel confident in that moment. I know some guys are going to step up for that."
Wednesday night’s match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Valour FC will resume Canadian Premier League play on Saturday when they take on Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.
Valour FC defender and co-captain Skylar Thomas left last week’s game in Halifax in the second half with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. Thomas didn’t participate in Monday’s practice, but Rocke wasn’t ready to rule him out for Wednesday’s match.
"That’s a day-to-day," Rocke said. "We’re hoping he’s going to be ready. But we’re going to have to see closer to the game."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.