2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #45 York United vs. Valour FC June 26, 2022 at 12:00 p.m. ET York Lions Stadium Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here

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The Canadian Premier League table looked about as balanced as possible just a month ago. Following then-league leaders Pacific, five of the CPL's eight teams were tied with eight points a piece.

In recent weeks, however, gaps have started forming as the sample size grows bigger and teams begin to build true identities.

Valour and York were two of those sides in the CPL's murky middle back in late May, but since the table has become clearer, both have sunk toward the bottom. They sit in seventh and sixth place respectively right now, both averaging just a point per game and quickly falling out of the playoff picture if they don't start increasing that rate of return soon.

"Both teams want to get up the table," said York coach Martin Nash pre-match. "So it is a massive match for both of us. It is not an easy task for either team, we have two teams who work hard and give everything."

The two sides met back on May 15 in Winnipeg, where a late worldie from Sean Rea, and a penalty save from Jonathan Sirois, would prove to be the difference in a 1-0 result. Since then, neither team has won a match in CPL action, while Nine stripes haven't even managed to score a goal.

There has been very little to separate these two sides historically. Through nine all-time meetings, they have each won four times, and drawn once. Goalscoring has been even as well, with 13 total each.

The issues for the two clubs of late have mostly been of the opposite nature. York, as aforementioned, while holding their opponents to just three goals in their last six league matches have been unable to score themselves.

The loss of Diyaeddine Abzi will not help in this regard, as their star fullback has officially left the club for Ligue 2 side Pau FC. York did, however, announce the signing of 18-year-old Canadian youth international striker Ronan Kratt who will provide Nash with yet another option as his side looks to get back in the goals.

They were able to do that midweek in the Canadian Championship, as Isaiah Johnston scored late in a 2-1 semi-final loss in the competition's semi-final against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Valour, on the contrary, has struggled defensively this season, especially late in matches. That match against York in mid-May was the last time they were able to keep a clean sheet and only FC Edmonton have conceded more so far this season. They allowed a season-high four last time out against Cavalry in a 4-2 loss on June 15.

The underlying numbers continue to paint a bleak picture as well. Again, only Edmonton has allowed more big chances than Valour's 21 through 10 matches this season.

This York match signals the start of a particularly treacherous stretch of the schedule for Valour, who have five trips to Ontario in their next four matches. That includes two trips to Hamilton to play a Forge FC side who have been scoring goals and rising up the league table for fun. So the road back to contention does not get much easier for the Winnipeg outfit.

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  • Vancouver match, Canadian Championship run, something to build on for York: While the league has proven tricky for York of late, the one place where they have consistently raised their level is the Voyageurs Cup. The club battled their way to the semi-finals by winning historic back-to-back penalty shootouts and delivered a strong outing against the Vancouver Whitecaps in a 2-1 loss. Performances like this against top opposition have galvanized other CPL outfits of late, as both Forge FC and Cavalry FC are undefeated after losing penalty shootouts to Toronto FC and the Whitecaps respectively. "It always helps when you show well against one of those teams," said Nash. "Now can you keep that level there instead of letting it drop when it comes to your next game? I'm hoping our players keep that same level and mentality that they showed in Vancouver and if we do that we will be in a good place."
  • Tough schedule an "opportunity" for Valour to take a step forward: The Ontario road trip is one of the most daunting parts of the schedule for any out-of-province Canadian Premier League club this season. Cavalry, who have been undefeated since picking up just a single point during their three trips to Ontario to start the season. Pacific, meanwhile, were league leaders before they too managed just a single draw against Forge, Ottawa and York. Valour has four trips to Ontario in their next five matches, including a pair to Hamilton to play Forge. But while on paper this looks like a recipe for more pain for the Winnipeg outfit, they are embracing the challenge it will bring, and the opportunity to quickly build up their stock again within the league. "These are good games for us," said Dos Santos. "I think every time we have been on the road against good teams and tough challenges the team has responded well. So we need to believe that we are going to respond, we have to see these games as an opportunity for us". He also mentioned that this is the point in the season in which a draw on the road can no longer be considered "good enough" and that picking up three points wherever possible will be critical to closing the gap with the league's top clubs.
  • Set pieces, and counterattacks, have been killing Valour: When watching the tape and examining the numbers, Valour FC is actually quite solid at defending once they get into their shape in open play. Only Forge and Cavalry have conceded fewer passes into the box this season. So why have they been leaking so many goals lately? There are two primary culprits: set-pieces and counterattacks, often resulting from their own mistakes. Their set play struggles in particular are a bit of a recent phenomenon as they rarely conceded from them early in the season. The individual mistakes, meanwhile, need to be eliminated as soon as possible. "We set a goal for ourselves to eliminate mistakes," said Dos Santos, "and that needs to be something that gets out of our locker room. We just can't give away the type of goals we have been giving in tight games." The below sequence from their recent match against Cavalry particularly irked coach Dos Santos. “There’s things that you can do when you’re playing in the park with your friends, and there’s others that you can’t,” the Valour coach said postmatch. “This is a pro team, and there’s things that you can’t do."


York United wins: 4 || Valour FC wins: 4 || Draws: 1

Previous match:

May 15, 2022 -- Valour FC 1-0 York United


"It is going to be a battle, we know that. It is going to be a fight to the end, I can't see it being any other way I just hope our mentality, and strength, and will of character will win out in the end." -- York United head coach Martin Nash

"It is obviously a moment where we can't let the teams who are at the top gain a gap that is too big to recover. I know it is early, we are a little bit over one-third of the season but we understand the urgency and it is a direct rival, so we need to go and play a solid game on the road." -- Valour FC head coach Phil Dos Santos

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