Final Score: Valour FC 3-0 York United
Goalscorers: Cebara (18′) Ricci (42′, 73′)
Game of the 2021 season: 26
CPL match: 161
Match in a minute or less
Valour FC looked full value for all three points from the off in a comprehensive 3-0 win over York United on Sunday. After Stefan Cebara opened the scoring on an early corner, Austin Ricci added a pair of insurance markers with two clinical finishes and Valour keeper Jonathan Sirois ensured their side wouldn’t beat in the 90′, keeping out an Osvaldo Ramirez penalty to preserve the clean sheet in style.
Perhaps the only blemish on the night for the home team was the early exit of their captain and stalwart defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste who was forced off through injury within the opening quarter of an hour.
Valour wins set piece battle
York has gained a reputation for its ability to poach on dead ball scenarios across the past two seasons and yet it was Valour that got the upper hand in that department on Sunday — finding their opening goal through a corner kick before turning away a Nine Stripes spot kick at the other end.
Cebara’s headed goal in the 14th minute came following a Sean Rea corner that looked initially one that would be easily dealt with by the York defenders. Perhaps the lack of natural centre backs in the box hindered their organization (more on that later) but once it was 1-0, it was always going to be difficult for the away side to claw back into it.
The deflation was only amplified when shortly thereafter Jonathan Sirois denied Osvaldo Ramirez on a penalty kick in the 35th minute —a moment stand in York defender Jordan Wilson admits felt a backbreaker for his team: “Maybe when it was 1-0, we score the penalty and maybe we get a boost there but it just kind of always seemed like an uphill battle today,” Wilson told media after the match. “That’s tough, that’s football, sometimes it rolls your way, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Chance conversion has been a slight concern for York United through seven games played and particularly of late as they’ve failed to score in any fashion now in three consecutive outings. Add in the constant threat from Ricci to an early Cebara header and a stellar PK stop from Sirois and it’s difficult to see a scenario where York could find an advantage over Valour in this one.
No natural centre-backs hurts York
It’s difficult enough to ask the same centre-back tandem to play three straight matches in an eight day span, but when you are deploying a natural fullback in Chrisnovic N’sa and a midfielder in Jordan Wilson in those spots the task becomes that much taller. Ultimately, N’sa was unable to see out the full 90′ on Sunday as he picked up a “knock” according to Jimmy Brennan and another body from the middle of the park was forced to drop deeper as Isaiah Johnston saw out the closing moments alongside Wilson.
The clean sheet against an impressive Cavalry team back on Wednesday night showed this team can get results without the likes of Dominick Zator and their typical centre back options, but keeping clean sheets over a sustained period might be a tough ask until this side gets fit again. On the opening goal conceded from the corner, York looked a side unsure of where they should be standing and while Nathan Ingham should be directing traffic from in goal, a vocal defender with an aerial presence like a Zator or a Roger Thompson might have prevented what turned out to be a deflating tally for the Nine Stripes.
On both of Ricci’s two goals, the back four of York looked far too flat which meant Ricci needed to beat just his nearest defender in a foot race with no cover being offered in behind. While nothing can be taken from the Valour front man regarding his movement and the manner in which he finished on both instances, the entire build seemed simply too easy and with experienced central defenders like Zator or Thompson available it’s easy to imagine the duo could have sniffed out the danger were they on the field.
Plenty of credit goes out to the guys who have stepped up in place of their injured teammates, but York United will be a better structured side at the back once Zator and Thompson can return before either player even touches a ball thanks to their ability to read the game, something Wilson suggests was a challenge at times on Sunday in an unnatural position: “I was personally disappointed with the second goal because I think I had two seconds to make a decision and I made the wrong one in terms of trying to play them offside, I should have just ran with them,” Wilson said of Ricci’s finish to make it 2-0. “That’s a point where I just need to be smarter.”
Rotation proves potent for Gale
While Brennan’s hands were tied to some extent in selecting his team against Valour thanks to injuries, York fielded an identical XI to the one that suited up on Wednesday. Valour added four sets of fresh legs and the energy of some of those who were substitutes back on Thursday proved particularly decisive for the home team as Moses Dyer and Kevin Aleman pushed the pace in midfield from the start.
Aleman led Valour in key passes (3), passes in the opposition half (23) and total duels (19) and was very progressive in possession, looking to get his group on the front foot as often as possible. Behind him a touch deeper in midfield was Moses Dyer who was tops on the team in touches (tied with Cebara on 62) and led the way in both passes attempted and completed (50 and 43) — none more decisive than the through ball for Ricci’s second.
Getting Dyer and Aleman into the lineup meant Daryl Fordyce and Rafael Galhardo started from the bench but in the mind of co-captain Fordyce, it’s simply the mantra the group was has been striving for since preseason: a true next man up mentality. “We don’t play for ourselves we play for each other and that’s very important as a team and we said it in early days, we must play together, stick together and work as a team.”
With Fordyce a substitute, Dyer was asked to “find the ball a bit lower” in his absence in the words of Gale post match, a job he did competently that allowed for Aleman and the rest of the attacking core to advance into dangerous positions. Given how well the midfield unit worked together, it’s no surprise Valour attempted just two crosses from open play all game versus the 17 York tried in pursuit of a comeback.
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Austin Ricci, Valour FC
With a pair of perfectly placed finishes, Austin Ricci provided Valour with a double dose of insurance while flexing his two-footedness in the process, scoring on both his left and right side with comfort. Winning four fouls, sending in two crosses and taking four shots in total, Ricci was also a willing runner all game and gave York’s makeshift backline headaches from the opening whistle.
Both sides are off until next Saturday where they’ll play their final matches at The Kickoff as Valour hosts HFX Wanderers (2 pm ET/1 pm CT), while York United finishes up in the Winnipeg bubble against FC Edmonton (5 pm ET/4 pm CT). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer.