MATCH ANALYSIS: Valour FC hold off second-half onslaught for draw at Cavalry FC

Final Score: Cavalry FC 1-1 Valour FC
Goalscorers: Aird 39′; Sánchez 31′
Game of the 2024 season: 27
CPL match: 511

Match in a minute or less

Cavalry FC and Valour FC shared the spoils on Sunday at ATCO Field, as two first-half goals cancelled each other out in what ended up a 1-1 draw.

Valour took the lead just over half an hour in, as Juan Pablo Sánchez roved forward to the top of the box and tried his luck with a shot from distance, which sailed over traffic and into the top left corner. The Cavs drew level quickly though, as Fraser Aird made it 1-1 in the 39th minute with a shot that took a massive deflection to land in the net behind Jonathan Viscosi.

The home side were the major aggressors in the second half after making a pair of halftime midfield substitutions, but despite all their possession and time in the attacking half, Cavalry couldn’t find the net again as it ended with an even scoreline.

Three Observations

Valour stay tough to add another point in last stop of road trip

Coming off their first win of the season, Valour had a spring in their step on Sunday, playing with a little more freedom than earlier in the year when bad results had been piling up.

In the first half, the Winnipeg club went toe to toe with Cavalry, matching them in almost every area; the shots were four to four, and the possession very nearly a 50-50 split. Juan Pablo Sánchez exemplified the better feeling around his side by conquering space in midfield before shooting from distance, showing his keen eye for how to capitalize on an opportunity the opponent provides.

As expected, Cavalry adjusted to Valour’s energy — more on how they did that later — which made the second half quite a different proposition for the Winnipeg club. The latter part of the game felt more about surviving, although they did have a couple positive charges up the field. Still, in the second half Cavalry outshot them nine to two with 0.77 expected goals and 60 per cent possession.

Cavalry won 61 per cent of the duels in the second half but Valour did what they needed to hold firm and hang onto the point.

“The plan was to stay true to ourselves,” Valour coach Phil Dos Santos said. “I think in the first few games there were glimpses of the team coming together but not being able to compete for 90 minutes, and our last game in Halifax I felt the team did that. It wasn’t an easy road game, very difficult; for us it was about seeing if the team would be able to put up the same fight, to compete for every ball, to be a little bit more responsible.

“You know that in places like these, especially here, you won’t be in control for the full game. You will have to weather the storm. It shows that the team has grown more mature.”

The feeling around Valour is markedly more positive than it was a few weeks ago. Their seven-game road trip to begin the season is over and they’ll be coming back home next weekend with points in their last two matches.

Now, as they settle into a more normal training routine during a week where they don’t need to travel, it’ll be much easier for Dos Santos and his squad to build on their positive performances.

CFC Media/Tony Lewis

Cavalry remain hard to beat, but can’t score to turn draw into win

The first seven games of the 2024 season have Cavalry in a very similar position to where they were this time last year. In fact, they have an identical 1-5-1 record at this point as they did after the first seven games of last year’s CPL Shield-winning campaign, which was something Tommy Wheeldon Jr. pointed out postmatch.

However, there’s no denying that the fans and team themselves are frustrated with how some games have been going recently, particularly at home, where they’ve drawn twice and won once in CPL action.

The main problem? The ball simply isn’t going in the net as much as they need it to be. Cavalry have scored nine goals in seven games, after leading the league with 46 goals in 2023.

Despite leading the league in shots taken — by a margin of 13 — the Cavs are fourth in goals scored.

“Credit to the lads for getting back into the game, but we had enough chances to win three football matches,” Wheeldon Jr. said on Sunday. “We’ve got to start putting the ball in the back of the net.

“Goals win games. The more goals we score, and the less our opponents score, we’ll be in a different points total. It’s not that we’re not creating chances. If we weren’t creating chances I’d be a lot more frustrated, but we are. Now the accountability has to be on the players to take them.”

Perhaps the Cavs are missing last year’s Golden Boot winner Myer Bevan, but with the likes of Malcolm Shaw and Tobias Warschewski in their attack there’s certainly enough quality. Both players had just one shot each over the full 90 minutes on Sunday, as they couldn’t quite find open space in the box.

Wheeldon Jr. is, now, challenging his attacking players to pick up the mantle and start capitalizing on opportunities. Once they do, they’ll surely begin turning some of these draws into victories.

CFC Media/Tony Lewis

Tired Cavalry improve thanks to halftime midfield change

After a fully even first half, Cavalry boss Tommy Wheeldon Jr. was not happy with the way his team had been playing. They’d been almost exactly even with Valour in every statistically category, from shots to possession to passes made.

Wheeldon Jr. was, therefore, prompted to act at halftime. He opted to change his entire central midfield, swapping out the initial double-pivot of Jesse Daley and Charlie Trafford and replacing them with Shamit Shome and Diego Gutiérrez.

Just a few days after the exhausting shift Cavalry put in against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday, it was clear they were lacking some energy in the middle of the pitch. Wheeldon Jr. admitted as much when explaining his choice to act:

“If we’d started the game the way we played the second half, it’s a different result,” he said. “I think we were still hungover from the Whitecaps win and that’s why we made changes at halftime, because we weren’t going to wait any longer.

“Charlie and Jesse were superb the other day so I’m not going to get too worried about them, but I thought Guti and Shamit gave us a different spark when they came into the game. We were losing the midfield battle, Valour were better than us; we changed the tide. As I said, I think if we’d had as many chances as we had in the first half, different game, different outcome.”

Gutiérrez and Shome certainly did help change the tide, with Gutiérrez in particular getting much more involved on the ball than either of Trafford or Daley, helping distribute forward.

In the second half, Cavalry created 0.77 of the 0.95 expected goals they had in the whole goal, turning 32 final third entries into 11 touches in the box and nine shots — but still, the renewed energy wasn’t quite enough to solve a Valour side clinging on for the result. Player of the Match

Fraser Aird, Cavalry FC

The fullback was responsible for Cavalry’s goal, hitting it hard from inside the box and getting the benefit of a huge deflection. However, he was perhaps more impactful in his distribution, creating seven chances with a team-high 19 passes in the final third. He made 12 crosses, including some dangerous corner deliveries, and he won possession five times as well.

What’s next?

Cavalry will head on the road next week to take on Pacific FC at Starlight Stadium on Saturday, June 1 (4 p.m. PT/5 p.m. MT). The following day, Valour will finally be at home to play their first match at Princess Auto Stadium in 2024, hosting Vancouver FC (4 p.m. CT/2 p.m. PT).

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