2021 CPL regular season (The Kickoff) — Match #26 Valour FC vs York United July 18, 2021 at 7:30 pm ET/6:30 pm CT IG Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca
The current class of the CPL takes on the only club who've beaten them this season as Valour FC meets York United for the second time at The Kickoff on Sunday evening at IG Field.
It was the Nine Stripes playing spoiler as Valour welcomed supporters back into the stands for the first time since 2019 last time these two faced off back on July 7. A pair of headed goals from Lowell Wright and Dominick Zator saw them secure a 2-1 win — their only victory so far through six matches in 2021. The offence has since dried up for Jimmy Brennan and York as they've failed to score in two straight contests, dropping a 3-0 decision against Pacific FC last Saturday before earning a hotly contested point in a physical 0-0 battle with Cavalry on Wednesday.
Although Brennan is confident his group is up for this next test, he anticipates a Valour team looking to get one back after York got the upper hand in their last clash earlier this month: "Absolutely they will and I'd be no different, I'd want revenge," Brennan told reporters on Friday. "But for us, now we've got to have that confidence and belief that we can go out there and do it which we do."
"This dressing room and these younger boys... there's a swagger about them, there's a belief and there's a confidence and we're looking forward to this next match."
Valour have strung together a pair of clean sheets since their lone loss to York in 1-0 wins over Forge FC and Atlético Ottawa, with goals coming from an Austin Ricci wonder strike from outside the area against the Hammers last Sunday and a Moses Dyer spot kick Thursday evening vs. Ottawa, Dyer's third converted penalty already this season.
It was the physicality and workrate of Brennan's side that worked well against Valour during their last meeting in the eyes of Rob Gale, a facet of the game his group needs to adjust to this time around: "They got tight and you know that they don't give you time and space," Gale told CanPL.ca on Saturday. "They're young, they're energetic and enthusiastic... we've got to work off the ball as well to create more chances and I expect us to do that tomorrow."
Whether York can continue to be the home team's kryptonite or Valour get their revenge, it should be a hard fought affair in both team's second last match at The Kickoff.
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!
3 THINGS TO WATCH:
Valour look for better result with rotation: Rob Gale gave starting keeper Jonathan Sirois the day off against York United earlier this month in what turned out being their only loss so far, conceding their only two goals against in the process as well. Daryl Fordyce, Federico Peña and William Akio also began the game against the Nine Stripes on the bench with the trio since returning to the starting XI for the two matches that followed. Valour have leaned on a core of six or seven regular starters as much as any other team in the league but with a very quick turnaround from the Ottawa match and the difficult conditions adding up, Gale alluded to a different looking lineup ahead of Sunday as rotation is simply necessary for the fitness of his players. With the remainder of the schedule back in home markets relatively congested until the end, it will be a big confidence booster if Valour can earn points while leaning a little heavier on their supporting cast on Sunday.
York makeshift backline: Ahead of the Valour match, Brennan said his staff were "still trying to get them all fit" when prompted on the availability of defenders Dominick Zator and Roger Thompson. Assuming neither are available for selection on Sunday, the Nine Stripes may have to ask natural fullbacks to do a job at centre back for the third straight game — a task given to Jordan Wilson and Chrisnovic N'sa against Pacific and Cavalry. After conceding three times against the Tridents, N'sa and Wilson looked much more comfortable in the clean sheet draw versus the Cavs. While Brennan admits the absence of some important figures at the back has been felt, he credits his group's versatility for the manner in which they've marched on despite injuries: "Do you miss Dom and Rog? Absolutely you do but it just shows you the players can adapt to situations and play different formations, different positions and they're comfortable when they have to be." Can that comfort be sustained into this weekend?
Aerial duel could be decisive: It's difficult to find many flaws in Valour given their recent form but one area that York enjoyed some success back on July 7 was the battle through the air. Both Wright and Zator scored through headers, the first following an inch perfect delivery from Diyaeddine Abzi on the left and the second coming through a scrappy moment of Valour defending following a set piece. Zator was a perfect 6 for 6 in aerial duels in that match while Wright was 1 of 8 — the one ball he did get on the end of proved essential. A knack for making set piece situations count and a physical, in your face style have defined this York side so far this season, but it will be up to Valour to match them in those departments on Sunday as they look to correct the facets of the game which let them down in their last meeting.
Valour FC wins: 2 || York United wins: 3 || Draws: 1
July 7, 2021 – Valour FC 1-2 York United
“We played them already, we beat them and this is no different, we want to go out there, be on the front foot, we want a good performance and we want to pick up three points again.” — Jimmy Brennan, York United head coach
“For us it's more of the same, we're gonna have to freshen the pack because the last two games were in heavy heat... it will be a different look for us but it will give other players a chance to shine.” — Rob Gale, Valour FC head coach