2021 CPL regular season — Match #35 FC Edmonton vs. Valour FC July 31, 2021 at 7 pm MT/9 pm ET Clarke Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca // Tickets available here

CPL soccer returns to Clarke Stadium this weekend, as FC Edmonton at last return home to play against recent bubble hosts Valour FC to begin this second phase of the 2021 regular season. A pair of sides looking to rebound from a loss will do battle on Saturday evening in the first CPL match in Alberta since the second leg of Finals 2019. Set to begin a four-game road trip are Valour, who sit atop the CPL standings right now after a very successful run on home turf at The Kickoff in Winnipeg. They've won six and lost two games so far, conceding just three goals along the way to make them easily the most in-form side in the league. That said, their final match in the bubble didn't quite go to plan; HFX Wanderers FC managed to slip past them for a 1-0 victory on an afternoon where Valour manager Rob Gale said his side was lacking a bit of the final third penetration they'd been able to find in previous games. Still, a CPL-record 11-save performance from Jonathan Sirois kept it very tight and gave Valour a good chance to find an equalizer, but they couldn't quite break through a deep-lying Wanderers team. Now, the league leaders are out of the bubble -- but it sounds like life has remained quite hectic since leaving. "Suddenly you have real life again," Gale told CanPL.ca on Friday. "Grass needs cutting, laundry needs doing, your kids need parenting, and everything else, and then you throw in a normal training week as well where you're busy and watching video and footage. It's been a hectic turnaround really in the past five days, and then packing up and going again." Meanwhile, FC Edmonton have had a more up-and-down start to the season, with a 2-2-4 record that puts them sixth in the league table coming out of the bubble. Much like Valour, their final appearance at The Kickoff was a 1-0 defeat, in this case to York United who held on to an early advantage for the narrow victory. The Eddies did pick up form in their final few games in Winnipeg, though, bagging a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Atlético Ottawa and a 1-0 win over HFX Wanderers as things have begun coming together for the side under new head coach Alan Koch. Now, they're very eager to carry on with the second phase of the season. "We've only trained for a couple of days, we gave the guys a few days off, but you can feel a big positive energy from the group," Koch told reporters this week. "It's definitely going to be a different type of game, and I think guys are excited to embrace that. Even though it wasn't that long ago it does feel, in many respects, like it was months ago already." These teams met just once at the Island Games in 2019, a game which Valour took 2-1 thanks to an 88th-minute Masta Kacher winner not long after Easton Ongaro had equalized for the Eddies. Over the course of these sides' time in the CPL, Valour has had far more joy in this fixture, with four wins from six games against Edmonton -- although it was FCE who took the spoils in these sides' first-ever meeting, a 2-1 result for the Eddies in May 2019 at the very first CPL game ever at IG Field.

Make your match picks prior to kickoff at canpl.ca/predictor for a chance to win prizes, including the grand prize of a trip to the 2021 CPL Final!


  • Eddies desperate for homecoming triumph: It's been 654 days since a Canadian Premier League match was played at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton. After a strong finish to the 2019 season that began to galvanize the crowd in the Albertan capital, it's been too long since the side in blue took to the pitch at home. This is a very different Edmonton team to its 2019 edition -- Alan Koch has taken over as head coach, and they have 15 players who weren't on the inaugural roster. When he was first hired, Koch spoke about how much he wanted to engage the local community, and the best way to do that is to put up statement performances at home. Certainly, a homecoming victory over the first-place side in the league would tick that box. "When you walk outside of the offices and the locker rooms, you can feel the energy," Koch said Friday. "There's a lot of people at the stadium preparing for the game tomorrow, which is awesome. I feel like it's something we've really missed. Playing games in Winnipeg were incredibly exciting, but we're back in our home markets. This is where we all want to be, and you can feel that positive energy amongst everybody." As one Eddies player apparently said in training on Friday, you only get one home opener per year.
  • Austin Ricci vs. Amer Didic: A wide range of individual battles should influence the outcome of this game, but one in particular that has the potential to tip the scales is that between Valour's star striker Ricci and stalwart Eddies defender Amer Didic. Ricci has been phenomenal so far this year, scoring four goals but more generally being a real handful for opposing centre-backs. The Valour forward has a desire to force his way through backlines to put himself in positions to shoot, and often his pace and physicality have been too much for the centre-backs he's competed with. This will be the first time Edmonton has seen Ricci this year, and it should be a good challenge for whomever lines up at the back -- likely Didic and Mélé Temguia. They'll need to keep a close eye on the striker to prevent him from getting onto a through ball in space.
  • Reinforcements arriving for Valour: Upon exiting the bubble, it seems Rob Gale was greeted with a host of newly-healthy and eligible players who will be available to him. Arnold Bouka Moutou, who recently arrived from France and went through his quarantine process, has joined the group in training, as has newly-signed Toronto FC loanee Rocco Romeo. Brett Levis, who has struggled with injury early in the season, is back with the squad as well -- in fact, the only player Valour won't be able to call on (other than Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who will miss the rest of the season) this weekend is José Galán, who is still nearing full health. Considering the injuries Valour has dealt with, it's even more impressive they've been able to climb to the top of the league table. Now, with a healthier squad and a more robust group to train with, perhaps they'll be even better down the stretch. "It's been nice to actually train 11 versus 11, and put on training sessions that are realistic in tempo because we couldn't do that in the bubble at all," Gale said. "We were still nursing bodies back to health and recovering the ones that played so many games in a short space of time. It felt somewhat normal at least in this kind of four days' preparation."


FC Edmonton wins: 1 || Valour FC wins: 4 || Draws: 1

Previous match:

August 29, 2020 — Valour FC 2-1 FC Edmonton


"I think (Edmonton) are still finding their feet and identity, and that's normal only eight games into a new coach, but they've made some good additions this year... They're gonna be difficult opposition, and I'm sure they'll be buoyed by being at home and having their fans behind them." — Rob Gale, Valour FC head coach

"I've been very impressed with Valour. Obviously playing at home was a huge advantage through the first eight games, but having said that, they've played very good football. They were very confident, they were very organized, and they picked up massive points in that bubble so I'm sure they're coming here feeling very, very good about themselves." — Alan Koch, FC Edmonton head coach

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