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This article was published 24/8/2021 (274 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Now that's how you get out of a slump.
Post-bubble life hasn't been kind to Valour FC as they went 0-1-4 in league play in their first five matches after The Kickoff concluded.
Valour got back to their winning ways in a big way Tuesday night as they stomped FC Edmonton 3-0 at IG Field to improve to 7-1-6 on the year. Their 22 points has Valour sitting in third in the Canadian Premier League standings, trailing first-place Pacific FC (7-4-3) who lead the way with 25 points.
"It feels really good. After the bubble, it was a big change because in the bubble we were forced to be together and work together and once we got out, we kind of lost focus a little bit," said Valour forward William Akio.
"But now that we're back together as a group it's really positive moving forward and hopefully we can get some more wins."
The Winnipeg side couldn't have dreamed of a better start than the one they got Tuesday night as Akio opened the scoring before most fans could even get to their seats.
Less than 90 seconds into the match, forward Sean Rea's perfect pass squeezed through Edmonton defenders to set up Akio on a breakaway and the 23-year-old finished the play.
"I actually don't even think so, not even in college," said Akio when asked if he's ever scored that early in a match. "It's pretty exciting that I did it at the pro level… It was definitely awesome and it brought energy to the team."
Edmonton coach Alan Koch wasn't quite as excited about the play.
"It's incredibly frustrating to concede that early in the game. Nobody plans to concede that early in the game, but when it does happen, you have to rebound and manage the game… Unfortunately, it put us in a bit of a hole and we never quite got ourselves out of that tonight," said Koch, who's squad falls to 3-4-6 and remains in sixth place.
Akio would also deliver an encore early in the second half as he beat Edmonton keeper Connor James in the 52nd minute to give Valour a 2-0 edge. Akio, a rookie out of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, entered the match with one goal in 13 appearances this season.
"I'm really happy, actually. I never really thought I'd be in this situation. I've just been keeping my head down and working really hard and I'm just really happy to get a brace tonight," said Akio, a Calgary native.
Brazilian midfielder Rafael Galhardo would provide Valour with even more breathing room in the 62nd minute as he gathered the ball in the middle of the box between two defenders before drilling a shot into the bottom right corner of the net to make it 3-0. It was the first CPL goal for the 29-year-old Galhardo, a highly touted signing with 11 seasons in Brazil's top-flight professional league on his résumé.
"He got close the last game and I said to him tonight 'This is your chance.' Keep coming into those areas… and I was pleased for Galhardo who came in and took (the pass) nicely but again, it was the quality of the move," said Valour head coach Rob Gale.
"The unselfish runs, the quality of the passing. We've stressed it before, the quality of this team is its togetherness. When they're working for each other and passing and rewarding the runs like we have been the last two games, we're a serious handful for anybody."
Despite the recent struggles in league play, Valour was coming off a 3-2 road win against Atlético Ottawa on Sunday in the preliminary round of the Canadian Championship tournament. After scoring only two goals in their first five matches after the Winnipeg bubble, Valour's offence has gotten back on track as they now have six in two games.
"We've probably created about the same amount (of chances), I think it's just the movements are more dynamic, more direct… We just got away from some basics for a couple of games here in the final third that we were doing in the bubble and as you can see, we're right back at it now in these last two games," Gale said.
Goalie Jonathan Sirois, a loanee from CF Montreal who spent the last week with the MLS club, returned to Valour and got the start Tuesday and made six saves to record his seventh clean sheet this season.
Valour will hit the road for their next match as they take on Pacific on Sunday.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.