WINNIPEG – It became clear early on that if Valour FC was going to beat HFX Wanderers on a Wednesday night in Winnipeg, Marco Bustos would be the reason why.
Staying strict to script – and making this writer’s job easy – Bustos scored twice early in the second half to lead the home side to a 2-0 victory.
The Winnipegger was lively through the whole match, having opportunities to open the scoring for his club in the first half. Instead though, he left the pitch at the break knowing his team needed to do more and he wanted to be the one to set the standard. The attacking midfielder thought his side was creating chances but, something was missing.
Turns out, it was apparently a simple formula for Bustos and company – and one that is shouted out by countless fans at every sporting event: “Just shoot the ball.”
“We talked about it at halftime and I went into the changeroom and I was thinking to myself that when we get the chance to shoot just shoot, and hopefully we score,” Bustos said. ” I came out with the mentality and the two times I shot they went in the net.”
As if he were a pizza boy on a ‘five minutes and it’s free’ policy, Bustos delivered just as he said he would. In the second minute of the second half, Bustos ended a combination with striker Michele Paolucci by chipping HFX keeper Jan-Michael Williams with his left foot.
Just three minutes later, Bustos cut behind the Wanderers defence and a well weighted pass by Louis Beland-Goyette hit him inside the box. This time, Bustos rounded Williams to complete the brace, still inside the half’s opening five minutes, by the way.
“Yeah he is a terrific footballer,” Valour FC head coach Rob Gale said, adding his pride in the local player taking the team talk to heart. “The criticism I had on the team is we didn’t shoot in good areas and looked for the perfect goal, but it can be scrappy so just get your shots off.”
Bustos play was also the main takeaway from visiting head coach Stephen Hart. The X-factor if you will, that turned the match in the opposition’s favour after an even first forty-five minutes.
“He got between the lines twice and ran at us and he scored early,” Hart said. “Basically we put ourselves in a tough situation.”
The result gives Valour consecutive home victories for the first time in club history, scoring five times over that span. Three of them from the left foot of Marco Bustos.
“It’s huge for us,” Bustos said of a pair of strong showings on home soil. “It’s huge for the fans, we want to leave here happy and now we focus on Monday (Another home match against Cavalry).”
To top off the night for the hosts, Valour held the clean sheet on the backs of a makeshift backline and a group in front of them that answered the challenge of restricting the Wanderers typically strong counter attacks. Midfielder Raphael Ohin put in another shift as a central defender in a back three that included first year pro Yohan Le Bourhis and veteran English centre back Adam Mitter.
This was also an opponent that Valour struggled with. HFX had won the last four meetings and outscored Valour 7–1 over that span.
“We worked on it, worked on the back three as a collective group and tidied up certain things,” Valour FC assistant coach Damian Rocke said. “They were magnificent today.”
And to end things off on the clear cut man of the match, Rocke wanted to make it clear that the impact of Marco Bustos to Valour FC goes beyond his reputation of having the ball on a string when it is on his left foot.
“Those are the things you see but he is truly a real professional,” Rocke said. “He’s extremely persistent, he’s in the gym doing the extra work … he’s a hardworking player and at the same time he is extremely technical.”