Final Score: Valour FC 1-0 York United Goalscorers: Rea 87' Game of the 2022 season: 24 CPL match: 275​

Match in a minute or less

Sean Rea was the hero for Valour FC on Sunday, as his dazzling goal from the top of the box was all the Winnipeg club needed to record their first home win of the 2022 season, seeing out a 1-0 win over York United. The visitors seemed at times to be close to taking the lead, and they missed a golden opportunity with a penalty kick in the second half -- stopped by goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois -- but ultimately it wasn't to be for them, as Valour scored late after defending for most of the match to claim all three points at IG Field.

Three Observations

Duelling midfields produce congested first half​

Perhaps it shouldn't be much of a surprise that two of the most difficult CPL teams to break down gave little away to one another in the first half of this match. Both sides deployed midfield duos that proved particularly hard to play through; Valour's experienced pair of Daryl Fordyce and Diego Gutierrez went up against two young talents in Cédric Toussaint and Isaiah Johnston for York. In the opening 45 minutes, both teams seemed unable to really generate meaningful touches in the attacking third, as both teams did well to take away space in the centre of the pitch and prevent their opponent from establishing a rhythm. Valour coach Phil Dos Santos was very pleased with his side's performance in the first half when it came to limiting York's ability to get on the ball, which seemed to be a key part of the team's strategy for this match. "I think we were the best team in the first half, and we finished the first half well," he said. "We were getting half chances, we were getting in behind and chances to put balls in and square it near the six-yard box; I felt we should've had a goal at that point in time. The game's like that, there's gonna be high moments and low moments and you need to manage those." He added: "They adjusted, they went with two of their midfielders pushing on our two midfielders and it made it hard for us, and we started to give too many balls away in our half. They were, I would say for 20 minutes of the second half, the best team." Although York adjusted to Valour's midfield supremacy and took greater control of that area in the second frame, the hosts nonetheless managed to hold firm and ultimately did manage to work the ball up the middle and that's where their goal came from -- though it required some remarkable individual work from Sean Rea. This wasn't a match where Valour had an onslaught of attacking opportunities; although they had almost 60% possession, they mustered fewer shots than York and didn't spend a lot of time in the final third -- especially in the second half. Still, Valour clearly did enough to win the match, thanks to a resolute defensive performance and some individual quality in attack.

York rotate attacking personnel to mixed success​

The most significant change made by either team heading into this match was certainly York's rotation in the front of their lineup, as Mateo Hernández made his first CPL start on the right wing alongside Eduardo Jesus -- naturally a fullback, but playing at left wing on Sunday -- and Lowell Wright dropping as a deep-lying second forward underneath Osaze De Rosario. They were sluggish in the first half, struggling to generate meaningful touches in the attacking third, but coming out of halftime they seemed to find an extra gear and took control of the first 20 minutes of the second half. That newfound dominance ultimately did lead to the penalty kick, although De Rosario's miss took the wind out of their sails somewhat. "We made them aware of a few things tactically we thought we could take advantage of," Nash said of the halftime adjustments he made. "Gave them a little bit of a kick butt, because I don't think it was our best half in general. We just demanded more, and to be fair we came out flying. It was a really good effort... all in all, a draw is probably a fair result, but these things happen." York managed 16 touches in the box to Valour's five in the second half, out-chancing them with 12 shots to four, but ultimately it wasn't to be. "I thought we got into a lot of good areas," Nash added. "Our decision making in the final third wasn't great or at our best, especially in the first half; instead of getting the ball wide we tried to force it through the middle where they had numbers. That was a bit frustrating at times, but I thought we got into some good areas and it just wasn't sharp in the final third."

Sirois' confidence continues to rub off on teammates​

At this point, are Valour less worried than other CPL teams when they give up a penalty kick? It seems so. Jonathan Sirois stopped yet another dead-ball attempt from 12 yards on Sunday, reading Osaze De Rosario's run-up and diving to his right for his fourth penalty save in a Valour kit (and his second this season already). His fellow CF Montreal loanee Sean Rea was giddy with praise for the young goalkeeper postmatch, giving further evidence to the notion that Sirois' presence between the sticks seems to genuinely give the 10 men in front of him a boost. "Jo thrives in these situations," Rea said postmatch. "When they called the penalty, I'm like, 'We know Jo's got this.' I wasn't even nervous, honestly. He's the one who kept us in the game and he gave the team a boost, I felt like that's what we needed... That's just what Jo does. He's a great shot-stopper, great with his feet, and he's just a wall in net. When there's a penalty it's not a 50-50, it's more like a 70-30 in his favour honestly. It's great to have a keeper that strong in net." Sirois, the reigning CPL Goalkeeper of the Year, already showed glimpses last year of just how good he can be, but he's picked up exactly where he left off and even improved his form since confirming his return to Valour on loan. The 20-year-old is increasingly establishing himself as one of the top young keepers not just in the CPL, but in the entire Canadian player pool -- indeed, it may not be long before he gets a look from the national team. Dos Santos also spoke very highly of his keeper after the game, detailing just how important it was to him to bring Sirois back on loan from Montreal for this year. "He did what he did last year for this club, and that's why we waited so long to make sure we would get him back," Dos Santos said. "We're here every day with him and it's not always perfect, his game is not perfect, but he needs to play and he's getting that playing time. I think he is someone that is getting closer and closer to that next level. You know that he's always going to give you a chance to win." Player of the Match

Sean Rea, Valour FC Almost by default, the nod goes to the goalscorer of a 1-0 match, but Rea was fantastic for Valour in this match, taking six shots (when nobody else on his side had more than one) and creating a further two chances.

What’s next?

Both sides will head out on the road next weekend; York will be on Vancouver Island on Friday, May 20 as they go to Starlight Stadium to take on Pacific FC (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). Meanwhile, Valour will travel to Calgary for a match with Cavalry FC on Saturday, May 21 (3:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. MT). 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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