Final Score: Valour FC 3-0 FC Edmonton Goalscorers: Akio 2', 52', Galhardo 62' Game of the 2021 season: 51 CPL match: 186
Match in a minute or less
A goal in just the second minute from Valour FC's William Akio would end up being the match winner on Tuesday night, as his team beat FC Edmonton 3-0 in front of their home fans at IG Field. Akio would add a second goal early in the second half, and Rafael Galhardo scored his first for the team moments after the hour mark, as the Winnipeg-based side held strong defensively and cruised to their seventh win of the season.
Now halfway through their 2021 CPL campaign, Valour are up to 22 points, sitting in third place. They're two points back of Cavalry FC, who have a game in hand, and three points back of Pacific FC as the western teams continue to hold strong at the top of the table. Edmonton, meanwhile, sit in sixth place with 13 points through 13 matches -- six back of Forge FC for the coveted fourth playoff spot.
Quick start puts Valour on the front foot early
FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch spoke ahead of Tuesday's match about the need to set a good gameplan and stick to it, but 83 seconds into the contest, that gameplan went out the window.
William Akio gave the home team the lead, running onto "an absolutely world class ball" -- as Valour head coach Rob Gale described it -- through the middle from Sean Rea, which he struck perfectly with the outside of his foot.
Akio caught up to the ball and shot it back across goal and into the bottom left corner of the net for the early lead.
It was a perfect start for Valour, and one that set the tone for the remaining 88 minutes.
"It's incredibly frustrating to concede that early," said Koch after the match. "Nobody plans to concede that early in a game, but when it does happen you have to rebound from it and manage the game. We spoke to our guys about how to put in a mature performance to get something here today, and I think we really struggled for the first 25-30 minutes to react to a negative situation.
"Unfortunately for us [it was] a bit of a hole, and we never quite got ourselves out of that tonight."
FC Edmonton limited to a lot of long-distance shots and crosses into the box
While the scoreline didn't reflect it, FC Edmonton outshot Valour 15-9 on Tuesday night. Many of them, however were from outside the box, with nine of them coming in from long range, and six of their total shots hitting the target -- all of which were saved by Jonathan Sirois.
Valour controlled the middle of the park, and were quick to shut things down on the outside, or forced errant crosses that often either went out of bounds or into the arms of Sirois.
The Eddies attempted 22 crosses on Tuesday, 17 of them from open play, but only four in total connected with a teammate, one of which was from a set piece. Edmonton fought hard to attempt to create chances, but whatever they tried, Valour had a match for it in what was a "very good" defensive performance, according to Rob Gale.
"Set pieces and crosses are going to be difficult, but I don't remember Ongaro or Warschewski getting a free header," Gale said after the match. "We dealt with the aerial threat and directness quite well, I thought."
Rafael Galhardo shines in best Valour performance yet
Coming off a selection in the Gatorade Team of the Week this week, Brazilian midfielder Rafael Galhardo showed again on Tuesday night that he has the potential to be one of the best players in the CPL when he's firing on all cylinders.
He scored his first Valour goal in the second half, poking the ball home while falling to the ground after picking up a pass from Austin Ricci. He seems to be playing with a lot of confidence at the moment, and playing a part in important back-to-back victories will only help him in that regard as well.
Galhardo was linking up well with his teammates, sitting in a deeper midfield role that allowed him to receive the ball with plenty of players and space in front of him. When he's given space in the middle of the park he isn't afraid to run at a defender, or spray impressive passes around the park, and did a bit of both on Tuesday.
He tied for the team lead in shots (three) and tackles (three) against FC Edmonton, and led his team in crosses (including curling the ball into dangerous areas from set pieces), passing accuracy in the opposition half (83.3%), and key passes (two).
"His technical quality is there for all to see," said Gale, who also had a lot of praise for Galhardo's set piece ability. "I'd put him up against anyone on the continent, to be honest, on set pieces. I said to him tonight that this was his chance to keep coming into those areas, arriving late and sometimes employ him deeper to try and get him on the ball.
"I was pleased for Galhardo to come in and take [his goal] nicely. It was the quality of the move -- the unselfish runs, the quality of the passing. We've stressed it before that quality in this team is their togetherness when they're working for each other, they're passing, and rewarding the runs like we have been the past two games."
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
William Akio, Valour FC
Giving his side the lead less than 90 seconds into the match, and following it up with a second goal 50 minutes later, William Akio's clinical finishing helped his side earn all three points on Tuesday night.
FC Edmonton are next in action on Sunday, August 29 (2 pm MT) for an Al Classico match against Cavalry at ATCO Field. Valour will host Pacific FC later that day at IG Field (5:30 CT/ 3:30 PT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer.