Valour FC wanted to leave a strong final impression on their home crowd before the inaugural Canadian Premier League season came to a close.
Unfortunately for Valour, they didn’t deliver. Winnipeg’s professional soccer club played its final home match of the season Wednesday night, but York9 FC spoiled the farewell party with a 4-0 victory in front of 3,980 fans at IG Field. All four of York9’s goals came in the second half.
Valour finishes the year with a 4-2-8 record in games played at home and drops to 5-4-8 in the fall season. Even though the majority of the seven teams in the league still have a game left on the schedule, the win guaranteed York9 (7-2-8) a third-place finish in the 18-game fall campaign. The best Valour (5-4-8) can now hope for is a fourth-place finish and they will need a win in Victoria on Saturday against Pacific FC for that to happen.
"Massively disappointing," Valour defender Adam Mitter said on not sending the crowd home with a win. "You know, especially to (allow) four goals again. I thought the first half we defended excellent. I’m not quite sure what happened, to be honest. I’ll have to watch the second half. But it just seems like (it’s) the story of our season."
Valour goalie Tyson Farago made a big save on Simon Adjei two minutes into the match. But, otherwise, it was a rather forgettable first half. The final 45 minutes was a different story. York9 midfielder Ryan Telfer added some excitement to the match by scoring his first of two goals three minutes into the second half to open the scoring. Valour was still in the game, but that changed in the 54th minute, as defender Skylar Thomas was called for a questionable foul in the box to award York9 a penalty kick. Thomas’s hand barely grazed a York9 player who fell to the turf, but the official clearly thought he saw more as he called for a penalty. Joseph Di Chiara stepped up to make it a 2-0 game for the visitors.
"Every game, the refs make mistakes. I don’t know who evaluates these guys, but it’s not good," Valour attacking midfielder Marco Bustos said. "You want to be a professional of the professional league, you can’t be making calls like that."
Valour head coach Rob Gale has never been shy to voice his displeasure with the officiating and that was the case yet again Wednesday night. In the 58th minute, Gale was given a yellow card for being upset after York9 defender Diyaeddine Abzi took down Valour midfielder José Galan. The tackle led to a shoving match between several players. Abzi was given a yellow card for the tackle.
"It amazes me. I’ve taken five (yellow cards)," a visibly frustrated Gale said. "I’ve been in football (for) years, decades, not taken a yellow card — and this season, I’ve been given five. You can’t appeal. They’re worried about conversations. It’s unbelievable to me. I gotta be careful what I say."
Abzi set up Telfer for a goal in the 83rd minute after a poor clearing attempt from Valour defender Raphael Garcia. Adjei delivered the final blow in the 89th minute. York9 had nine shots on target compared to Valour’s four.
"It’s like any sport, you go one goal down, that’s hard enough to come back. But two, three, four, (it’s) nearly impossible," said Bustos, a Winnipeg native with seven goals this year. "So, you know, we didn’t give up as a group. We kept running. For the fans, just not the send-off we wanted."
Fourth place isn’t anything to get excited about, but that’s all that’s on the line for Valour in their season finale against Pacific. With key players, such as midfielders Michael Petrasso and Louis Béland-Goyette on one-year contracts, plus some players who fell short of expectations who might not be welcomed back next year, Saturday will likely be the last time many of these players will play together. Bustos said no one knows what will happen in the off-season, but he hopes this group can close out the season with three points.
"You work with these guys every day. Come in six days a week for a calendar year, and then at the end of the season, guys go their own ways," Bustos said. "Some will be back, some won’t. But we’re going to enjoy the last weekend we have together and hopefully get a win in the next game."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.