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This article was published 11/9/2019 (198 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Valour FC is coming off of their worst performance in franchise history and now they have to play the top team in the Canadian Premier League.
Winnipeg’s soccer club was blasted 8-0 by Cavalry FC at home on Sept. 2. They’ve had 10 days to dwell on their embarrassing performance, but things aren’t going to get any easier as they host Forge FC — who are in first place in the CPL’s fall season with a 6-1-2 record — tonight at 7 p.m. at IG Field.
Valour is 0-4 against the team from Hamilton and have been outscored 10-3 in those matches combined. Why should anyone think Valour has a chance to win tonight?
"I don’t care if anybody does or doesn’t outside of our room ’cause they’re not the ones playing," Valour head coach Rob Gale said before Wednesday’s training session. "So, you can have an opinion, you can watch those, look at it back, look at the last game. But we just focus on ourselves internally, make sure that we respond in the right way."
Valour’s odds of going on a big run to win the CPL’s fall season title aren’t good, but they’re still alive. Including tonight’s date with Forge, Valour (3-5-3) have seven matches left in their 18-game schedule. Forge is eight points ahead of Valour in the standings despite having played two fewer games. Although a loss wouldn’t officially eliminate them, Valour needs a win tonight to have a chance at playing meaningful games down the stretch.
"We gotta respond," Gale said when asked if the match is a must-win for his club. "First and foremost, there needs to be a better performance. We want to win the game. We want to try to win every game, especially at home. But if you win one game and lose the next, it’s no use to you, right? It’s finding that consistency of performance."
With 17 goals in nine games, Forge arrives in town with the CPL’s best offensive attack. Centre-forward Anthony Novak has given Valour headaches, as the 25-year-old from Pickering, Ont., has scored three goals against the Winnipeg side. Forge also has midfielder Tristan Borges, arguably the top player in the league, who’s second in the CPL with eight goals and has found the back of the net against every club this year. Valour has 13 goals in 11 fall-season matches.
"Tristan, he’s a great technical player. Good one-versus-one abilities. He’s got good set-piece delivery. He’s a good, technical footballer. Like I said before, he’s very similar to (Valour attacking midfielder) Marco Bustos in that way and he’s been clinical this season at times with the chances he’s had," Gale said.
"Novak provides a different type of play. He’s a robust centre-forward, big and physical. Our biggest problem with him is two of the goals have been absolute gifts to him, so you’ve got to eliminate that."
Novak and Borges will look to take advantage of a struggling Valour defensive group missing some key players. Veteran Uruguayan defender Martin Arguiñarena tore an ACL in Valour’s 3-1 win at home against FC Edmonton on Aug. 20 and defender Skylar Thomas is suspended for the match due to yellow-card accumulation. The one positive is Valour will welcome back key defender and former captain Jordan Murrell from his six-game suspension. Valour stripped Murrell of his captaincy after he was given a red card in an outburst against HFX Wanderers FC on Aug. 5.
"I think he’s going to be hungry to come back and prove a point and have proved to his teammates that he’s learned and he’s ready to go and battle for them for the rest of the season," Gale said.
"There’s nothing worse as a player than looking from the outside in and not being able to play. That’s the ultimate punishment, so I think he’ll be ready to go and I think it’s important for the group that he’ll be back in and provide some balance to our defensive unit."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.