Valour FC coach and GM Rob Gale says there is no tougher opponent in the Canadian Premier League than Cavalry FC. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that his Winnipeg-based team dropped a two-nil decision to the 2019 runners-up from Calgary in their opening game of the 2020 Island Games schedule on Sunday afternoon in Charlottetown.
Cavalry scored on a header by striker Marcus Haber on a setup to the far post by Mohamed Farsi in the 29th minute and then quickly made it 2-0 on a penalty kick by Sergio Camargo just four minutes later. That was pretty much the match, according to Gale.
“Unfortunately when you’re down by two then the opposition can sit behind the ball and they went to five at back and it becomes very difficult to break a team down when they’re holding their lead,” the Valour on-field boss told media on a Zoom call following the game. “But that’s something we can work on.”
It was Valour’s first game in some 10 months, and midfielder Dylan Carreiro says another factor was an almost completely overhauled roster.
“We hadn’t played a game in over 300 days … I was the only one that was here (Winnipeg) in the CPL last season,” said the Valour co-captain. “So 10 new debuts on our team and it was obviously a bit difficult at the beginning to adjust and get going.
“But leading into the second half, with us getting more confidence with the ball and understanding the speed of play, we adjusted to it. It’s just building blocks now to get us going into the tourney.”
Despite the loss, Gale saw some positive aspects to develop some momentum from.
“Bravery from the boys. That’s physical bravery. I think we showed we’re different in both boxes than previously, and we’re not going to be bullied or rolled over,” said the Valour coach, who singled out defender Julian Dunn-Johnson and midfielder Raphael Ohin for individual praise.
“Towards 40 minutes on, we got resolve and we got to playing and starting to see the identity we’re trying to build as a football team.”
But there were some concerning stats for Valour offensively and they will likely need to be addressed before Wednesday’s game against Atletico Ottawa, which is a 12 p.m. CDT start. Valour did not have a single shot on target and had just 42 per cent possession of the ball.
Carreiro sees that as a correctable problem.
“Just a bit more sharper movement, quicker movement of the ball,” Carreiro said when asked how he and his teammates can fix that. “Getting the ball moving quicker from the back going forward, side to side. But the main thing is just getting runs in behind and creating little angles, triangles, around the park.”
Gale is also optimistic his squad will find their rhythm against first-year opponent Ottawa, which tied York9 FC 2-2 in their opener on Saturday.
“The boys will move on from this and have now come into battle together against a very well organized and difficult opponent,” Gale said. “They can regroup and build for the next game. We’ve put that one to bed and move on to Atletico immediately.”