Final Score: Valour FC 0-0 HFX Wanderers Game of the 2022 season: 19 CPL match: 270​

Match in a minute or less

Valour FC played their first home game of the season on Saturday afternoon, hosting HFX Wanderers at IG Field. They also picked up their first clean sheet of the season, as the match ended 0-0. HFX outshot Valour 12-3 in the first half, looking like the stronger team and that they were due for a goal, but it was the home side that showed signs of improvement after the break, turning the tables and shooting 12 times in the second half to the Wanderers' five. Nothing would come of those chances, however, with the two teams splitting the points.

Three Observations

Wanderers' Gander does well to limit Akio's effectiveness​

The last time William Akio took the pitch, two weeks ago in Valour's 6-1 win over against Atlético Ottawa, he put in a CPL Player of the Week-worthy performance. Setting up several goals and using his speed and ball control to slice through the Ottawa backline, the 23-year-old was nearly impossible to stop. The Haligonians clearly put an emphasis on him ahead of this match, as Akio was marked closely and was unable to make a huge impact in the game. He had one shot on target, but won only three of his ten duels and touched the ball only 31 times, the lowest of any Valour starter. In 90 minutes of action he was marked closely by Wanderers left back Colin Gander, as well as centre-back Eriks Santos -- who impressed again in his fifth-consecutive start to begin the season. The duo -- alongside Santos' centre-back partner Peter Schaale and right back Zachary Fernandez -- held Valour to just three shots in the opening half, and seven of Valour's 15 total shots came from outside the area. Kieran Baskett also kept a clean sheet in his first start of the year, making three stops. Gander was on Akio all afternoon, as shown by the pair's heatmaps below. The 21-year-old won four of his six duels and won a team-high three aerial duels, winning all of the ones he contested. He also led the team in touches and attempted passes, making a lot happen down the left side in his first CPL start.

Tale of two halves, as Valour create a lot more chances after the break​

Long stretches of the first half were dominated by HFX Wanderers, with the visitors outshooting Valour 12-3. Half of those chances were taken outside the penalty area and only three hit the target, but as Wanderers winger Alex Marshall said after the match: "if you don't shoot, you can't score". Marshall had three of those shots in the opening 45, none of which hit the target, but the pacey trio of him, Cory Bent and Ryan Robinson were getting into some dangerous areas and making things happen. Every time Valour tried to play out of the back, Wanderers midfielders were all over them, and there were some quick counter-attacks that nearly led to an elusive opening goal. Wanderers boss Stephen Hart was quick to praise Marshall and young left back Colin Gander, who both got themselves into the box during the match, but says that they could have done better from those positions. "We did get into the box, but we didn't take the shots," he said, also echoing Marshall and saying "you miss 100% of the chances you don't take." The second half was a different story, and the momentum seemed to switch after half time. Valour outshot HFX 12-5 after the interval, getting Moses Dyer a bit more involved, and allowing Brett Levis a bit more freedom to roam forward from left back. Sean Rea also had another strong performance, taking three shots and creating a team-high two chances. While he was happier with his side's second-half performance, Valour head coach Phil Dos Santos made it clear in his postgame press conference that he and the players weren't satisfied with how they played on the day. "The game ended 17-15 in shots. I don't like that, I think that was part of the problem for us," said Dos Santos. "We defended too far from each other, and it became kind of a transition game. "I thought it was an erratic game, back and forth. I'm sure that Stephen Hart is not happy about the shot count either." Dos Santos thought that some of the substitutions he made were effective as well in changing the how the game was playing out. "Matthew (Catavolo) is a player that didn't train all week with us, he arrived and I felt like there was fatigue there, he was fighting a little bit, especially centrally against Rampersad. There was a big difference in maybe muscle and size there, so I thought that bringing in a guy like Matteo (de Brienne), he would be able to stretch them a little bit more, get a little bit more of depth and lowering Dyer would give us a bit of muscle and help out the two midfielders more. "And the one where we did [Diego Gutierrez] for Andy (Baquero). Again, Andy came out of an injury, he trained a week before getting in the lineup and I felt that he wasn't giving us what we needed anymore. I think he was playing away from the play or against the play, trying to step in front of him or losing battles and duels, and we felt it would be good to get Brett (Levis) from deeper positions and bit more of the ball with Guti."

"Extremely steady" Rampersad impresses in 75th Wanderers appearance​

Playing another 90 minutes on Saturday in Winnipeg, HFX Wanderers captain Andre Rampersad has played every second of the season thus far for his team. He's one of three Wanderers players to go the full 90 minutes in all five of their matches thus far, with Eriks Santos and Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé the others, and put in another strong performance in this game. The Wanderers skipper is often reliable for his team on both sides of the ball, a strong, physical defender in the middle of the park defensively and capable of unlocking the opposition with a pass in attack. There were several moments at IG Field where Rampersad would win the ball back and instantly turn and send the ball down the pitch for one of Cory Bent, Ryan Robinson or Alex Marshall to start something in attack. For a team that plays a lot on the counter-attack, the ability to win the ball back and turn it around quickly is vital, and Halifax have a few of those players in Rampersad, Gagnon-Laparé and Pierre Lamothe, among others. Rampersad led his team with four shots on Saturday, as well as successful dribbles (four) and times winning back possession (14), as well as finishing near the top of several other categories, making three tackles, two interceptions and 33 completed passes. It was another well-rounded performance from HFX's reliable leader. The 27-year-old has been with the club since day one of the inaugural 2019 CPL season, and been the captain since the start of the 2020 season. Saturday's match was his 75th appearance for the club in that span. "He's an extremely steady player, both defensively and offensively," said Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart after the match. "He took a bit of a knock today and soldiered on through it, I was happy for that. [It was] again a very steady game from him." "Andre's a guy that it doesn't matter which day or which atmosphere, he's always going to give 100%," added teammate Alex Marshall. "It's a great milestone, and I wish we could have helped him with a victory." Player of the Match

Andre Rampersad, HFX Wanderers Making his 75th appearance for the club, HFX Wanderers captain Andre Rampersad played well for his team on both sides of the ball.

What’s next?

Both teams have a quick turnaround before playing in Canadian Championship preliminary round games over the next few days. HFX Wanderers travel to Ontario to face League1 Ontario winners Guelph United on Tuesday, May 10 (7 pm ET/ 8 pm AT), while Valour head to the west coast to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday, May 11 (7 pm PT/9 pm CT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.

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