Valour FC may have been in fine form on Saturday during their 3-1 win over FC Edmonton, but for Eddies head coach Jeff Paulus, the problems lie not with how their team handled Valour’s 90 minutes of football, but with how they themselves played at IG Field.
A burn on a dribble led to the opening goal for Valour, with a follow-up counter-attack and a conceded penalty telling the stories of goals two and three for the Winnipeg-based side, all defensive errors that Paulus said his team ought to have prevented from happening in the first place.
True, playing in a new-look 4-3-3 that Paulus has previously flirted with meant that the Eddies would be experimental by nature, but with the remaining five sides not in Finals 2019 vying for third place, it’ll be particularly tough for Edmonton to swallow a loss that sees the club extend its winless run to 10 matches in a row.
“We’re trying in every game, but we’re in a winning sport,” Paulus lamented after the match.
“This is professional sports – you have to win. For us, we’re also looking at next year and trying to do some things; I’m giving us a long look at a 4-3-3, and you saw in the first half, we weren’t terrible in it, but we’ve made our own mistakes.
“We just keep beating ourselves. The frustrating part, for me, is how we lose games … It’s horrendous. That’s my frustration, how we lose games. We show signs that we can do some good things, but we have to take a long look in the mirror, staff, players.
“We’re not good enough at this point and time.”
The 2020 season offers each manager a chance to refresh and restart, and in that regard, Edmonton can use their remaining three fixtures to continue experimenting and tinkering, trying to find a winning combination that will yield the best results, long-term.
But, for Paulus, the challenge isn’t just in finding an effective formation, but in ensuring his team gets their fundamentals down to an instinct that, perhaps, they don’t quite have yet.
“I thought, today, our 4-3-3 was going to be effective,” Paulus mused. “I thought we could get at them. But, even in that first half, as much as they were on the front foot, really, you take away our two (goals conceded), and that one good save we made on Petrasso, they didn’t really generate great opportunities in that first half, as well as they were the better team, for sure.
“We were in the game, but they beat us in our own run of play.”
He added: “Second half, we went back to a 4-4-2, and we had to play direct, because my guys couldn’t pass the ball to save their lives today, so we went back, went more direct, got ourselves back in the game, and, I feel like … it may be a penalty, but it’s also men’s football, shoulder-to-shoulder.”
With a proverbial shrug, Paulus goes back to the drawing board, looking to ensure that Edmonton returns in 2020 with a brighter outlook come this time next year. Whether that’s in a 4-3-3, 4-4-2, or a whole new system remains to be seen, but Paulus’ frustrations mean it’ll be a busy few weeks of training for the club down this final stretch of the 2019 season.