Final Score: Forge FC 0-2 Valour FC Goalscorers: Moses Dyer (6') Austin Ricci (26') Game of the 2021 season: 3 CPL match: 138

Match in a minute or less

Valour FC and Forge FC faced off with the reigning champs showing some rust, while the home side looked robust. The directness and high tempo energy of Valour's attack caused problems from the off and it took just six minutes to get their reward — a Moses Dyer spot-kick. Twenty minutes later Austin Ricci doubled their lead and Valour sat in to absorb any comeback effort from Forge. It was a frustrating afternoon for Bobby Smyrniotis and co. but Rob Gale's group deserves plenty of praise for the manner in which they held onto their 2-0 advantage after the interval, as the score would remain the same at the final whistle.

Three observations

Ricci relentless in attack Plenty was made of Valour's scoring-by-committee results at last year's Island Games, where no player managed to find the back of the net more than once. Despite the external concerns, Rob Gale insisted it was the sample size, not the shortcomings of his attackers that explained where the scoring (or lack thereof) came from in 2020. "Did we score enough? no, but I think over 28 games we would have found the net consistently and that's what we're going to do this year," said Gale to reporters on Thursday ahead of their game against Forge. One of the potential solutions to the so-called problem in the eyes of Gale was Austin Ricci, who showed exactly why against Forge on Sunday as it was his intensity in the press and willingness to run behind the Forge backline that caused serious concern for the opposition and directly led to both goals — drawing the PK for the opener before adding a second for his side after a brilliant press and ensuing solo effort. The Hammers looked disorganized in the early goings (more on that later) and struggled with their gap control at times. Ricci exploited these spaces time and time again and feasted off Forge's highline regularly in the first half. It was likely Gale had his mind on the congestion of his club's upcoming fixture list when he hooked Ricci in the 67th minute, a change defenders at the other end of the pitch would have few objections about given his performance. Concerns in early days without Edgar It's hard to ignore the potential impact removing David Edgar from the heart of Forge's defense could have on this group. They've done quite well in recruitment by bringing in veteran Dejan Jakovic but without a proper preseason to familiarize with one another, the back four left holes for a hungry Valour frontline to thrive in. It was Jakovic who took down Ricci for the penalty before the Valour forward burned the typically ever-reliable Daniel Krutzen on the second goal. Edgar, now serving as an assistant coach for Forge, was invaluable for Smyrniotis across the past two seasons due to his ability to command the defensive core. It's a small sample size but it appears this new-look back four for the reigning champs will need some reps together in a series of competitive fixtures before they can hope to find the sort of stability they've been known for with Edgar steering the ship. Borges-Babouli kept at bay Many Forge fans would've been licking their lips when the team's starting XI came out ahead of kickoff — particularly for the first chance to see both Tristan Borges and Mo Babouli at the same time. In the end, the occasion disappointed as neither of the pair managed to make their presence felt in this contest. It would be easy to point fingers at the duo but with just 24 touches each, any hope for a game-breaking moment from either or is hard to expect. Much of their shortcomings can be attributed to a lack of match fitness but Valour deserves praise for the way in which they defended, applying plenty of pressure high up the field while resorting to deeper blocks of four when appropriate later in the match. The biggest bright spot in the Forge attack on the day was Chris Nanco who made a half-hour cameo off the bench in place for Borges. As the 2019 MVP and the rest of the forwards find their fitness, Nanco could be in line for more minutes in the next match, as Smyrniotis alluded to after his team's 2-0 loss: "Nanco was the guy who started off the bench and we knew we'd get energy coming into the second half, in the next game that may change from the beginning." Player of the Match

Austin Ricci, Valour FC The Valour talisman did exactly what a side needs from their No. 9 in this one — drawing the PK for the opener before tacking on the insurance marker in style. Ricci was a constant threat to the Forge backline during his 67 minutes on the pitch.

What’s next?

Valour is back at it against HFX Wanderers on Wednesday, June 30 at 7 pm ET (6 pm CT), while Forge gets an extra day to regroup as they take on FC Edmonton Thursday at 5 pm ET (4 pm CT) where both teams are looking for their first points of the season. Watch all games live on OneSoccer.

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