As the old footballing adage goes: Build from the back.
If you ask Valour FC coach Rob Gale, that’s exactly what they’ve done in the 2020 CPL season.
Saturday’s stalemate against York9 FC didn’t see much from either side in terms of going forward. At the back, however, positives were endless. Valour made 16 tackles and 17 clearances, with Toronto FC loanee Julian Dunn making three each.
“If you defend, well, you have a platform to go forward,” said Gale, who preached patience with his side’s quiet attacking core on the day.
“With the stability and the organization behind the ball we have the chance to play the football I try to play… Last year we couldn’t get a settled back four, which didn’t help us and give us the platform to build forward.”
While the first goal-less stalemate at The Island Games, Saturday’s was the closest of the incredible six draws we’ve seen thus far. Stats were nearly identical between the sides; three shots on target, 50 per cent possession, 18 fouls conceded. Valour forward Austin Ricci and second-striker Moses Dyer provided glimmers of hope, pressing and keeping York9’s defence honest.
Gale was quick to attribute the lack of goals against York9 to the schedule. Valour has played three matches in six days – all of which were in the midday sun in Prince Edward Island.
“We executed well going forward until that last little run but, on two days rest, I can’t fault the energy and effort from the lads,” Gale said. “It’s a slog. This tournament is going to be survival of the fittest.”
The Winnipeg side has proven an especially fit team through three matches. Dunn and Andrew Jean-Baptiste have played all 270 minutes, and kept York9 smothered right to the very last minute on Saturday.
On-loan Montreal Impact goalkeeper James Pantemis has backed up Jean-Baptise and Dunn for those 270 minutes at The Island Games, creating a growing relationship.
“Our backline was solid as we’ve shown in the tournament, we’ve been getting better and better and giving up fewer chances,” Pantemis said. “You can see the communication that’s given, there is always talking among ourselves so that’s very positive.”
A second clean sheet, and four points from three matches, is all gravy for Gale, whose Valour side sat firmly in the “top four” spaces after Saturday’s matches.