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This article was published 26/7/2019 (813 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If Mother Nature is a soccer fan, clearly Valour FC is not her favourite club.
Valour has played in some less-than-ideal weather conditions in its first two Canadian Premier League fall season matches.
After finishing the spring season in last place with a 3-7-0 record, Valour was eager to turn the page and start the 18-game fall campaign on July 17 in a road match against FC Edmonton.
The match was slated to begin at 8 p.m. but stormy weather pushed it back nearly an hour. Play finally began, but only for eight minutes before the match was called again due to lightning. The match, which ended in a 0-0 draw, didn’t resume until 10:45 p.m.
"It was a funny one, ’cause I mean, the first eight minutes we played, I felt we were all over them. I thought we were going to get an early goal and we’d be good," said Valour attacking midfielder and Winnipeg native Marco Bustos.
"But then the weather came. I knew it was coming. The sky was getting dark. But yeah, it kept getting delayed. We got to the change room and it was another 30 minutes, then another 30 minutes and another 30 minutes. Honestly, we started playing cards. There was a group of us. We were just very relaxed. We didn’t know if the game was going to be played or not."
As for their second game, it was a 3-1 defeat last Saturday in Hamilton against Forge FC. There wasn’t a dark cloud in sight, but both sides probably wish there were a few as temperatures hit 40 C.
"I’ve played in hot weather. But man, in my opinion, Saturday was the worst," said Valour midfielder Raphael Ohin, who’s from Ghana but lived in Switzerland, Germany, Thailand and Sweden before moving to Winnipeg in 2016.
"I was ready for the game. My body and everything was feeling good. But right after the warmup, I started having this weird feeling and kind of felt heavy and stuff like that. At the beginning of the game, I felt OK for like, the first 15 minutes. But after 20 minutes, it got harder and harder."
Five Valour players suffered from heat exhaustion, with two of them needing to go to the hospital for medical attention.
So what did Valour do to deserve such bad luck with the weather so far? At this rate, they’ll be playing in a snowstorm on Saturday when they welcome Cavalry FC — the CPL’s spring season champs — to IG Field.
"Honestly, I wish we knew what we did to deserve (this)," Valour head coach Rob Gale said with a laugh on Monday when the team introduced newly signed Italian striker Michele Paolucci to the media.
"People say it turns around during the course of a season. So, we’re going to get some fantastic refereeing decisions coming up. We’re going to get some fantastic weather conditions. We’re going to get deflections and bounces going the other way. We’re going to get a run of clean, injury-free health and then you’ll see Valour Football Club buzzing. So, I don’t know what we did. Maybe I need to go to church a bit more. Michele will take me to a good Italian Catholic church on the weekend and we’ll hope for some divine intervention. But I’ll drink any holy water we can, any water that will help me along with the team and change our fortunes a little bit. But honestly, the hard work that they’re doing behind the scenes and what we see and where the team’s going, it will turn around."
Valour is hoping their two newest faces, Paolucci and Spanish midfielder José Galán — both 33-year-old veterans who have played all over the world — will help this team get on track. With former Montreal Impact player Michael Petrasso still nursing a lower-body injury, and 34-year-old Croatian midfielder Josip Golubar lost for the year with a torn ACL, Valour desperately needed some more experience in the lineup. Both players were signed last week, with Galán coming off the bench in the loss to Forge.
"If there was something we needed, I would’ve said we would’ve needed more experience on the team," Bustos said.
"It’s good that we brought them in. I think we need it. I think younger guys need it. They motivate not only myself, but also the younger guys, too, that need a bit more motivation to be better in training ’cause that brings it into the game. Just stuff like that is what I think is going to help the team, for sure."
Bustos knows what it feels like to be late to the party, as he started the year with the Oklahoma City Energy of the USL Championship League and missed all of Valour’s training camp and the first week of the season. The 23-year-old, who grew up in The Maples, said it’s important to help the new guys get comfortable with the team.
"I do everything I can to help. For example, this morning I picked them both up from their hotel and brought them to practice," he said.
"I know it’s something small, but it goes a long way. They obviously got quality. They’ll be a big addition to the team, for sure. And like I’ve said before, any help is good help. I’m sure they’ll be able to help us be stronger in areas we need to be stronger in and they’ll be good teammates and that’s what matters most."
There’s a good chance the new guys will be in action on Saturday when Valour returns to IG Field for the first time since a 3-1 loss to York9 FC on July 1. And Valour will need an impressive home debut from Paolucci and Galán if they’re going to pull off a win against their opponent. Cavalry is fresh off of a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS on Wednesday to advance to the semifinal of the Canadian Championship.
"I feel like we’re going to change the whole story this Saturday," Ohin said. "We’re very confident going into the game. This is soccer. Anything can happen. Who was expecting Cavalry to beat the Whitecaps? In my opinion, we still have good players. We can move the ball around. There’s a few pieces missing and the coaches are doing what they can. And the players are also working hard to put the pieces together and hopefully we can get a result."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.