PREVIEW: FC Edmonton vs. Valour FC — 2022 Match #109
Benedict Rhodes, CanPL.ca Contributor (@BTFR17)
2022 CPL Regular Season — Match #109 FC Edmonton vs. Valour FC October 8, 2022 at 1 p.m. MT/2 p.m. CT Clarke Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca & TELUS Ch. 980 // Tickets available here
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The final weekend of the 2022 Canadian Premier League regular season is upon us, and the year will end in the same place it started for both FC Edmonton and Valour FC. The two sides square off at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton on Saturday afternoon, the same place they played their season-openers all the way back in April.
That match ended in a 1-1 draw, thanks to a pair of stoppage time goals, a curled shot from Andy Baquero at the end of the first half and an incredible bicycle kick from Tobias Warschewski in the 95th minute to steal a point for The Eddies — one of the most memorable moments of the 2022 season thus far.
The next two meetings between these sides, both at IG Field in Winnipeg, ended by the same scoreline. On June 5, a 32nd-minute goal from Mamadi Camara had The Eddies on the verge of their first win of the season, but William Akio scored a 94th minute goal for Valour to rescue a point — payback of sorts for how the first meeting ended.
It was Valour who scored the opening goal in the August 21 match at IG Field, with Sean Rea scoring three minutes into first half stoppage time, but a goal from Azriel Gonzalez two minutes after the second half kicked off canceled it out, and that game would also end 1-1.
This game is meaningless in terms of positioning in the table or playoff possibilities — Edmonton were eliminated a long time ago, and Valour have fifth place locked up — but both sides will want to end the season on a positive note.
The Eddies in particular, after a difficult year due to their situation off the pitch, have had a tough go of things, but having picked up all three of their wins this season at Clarke Stadium already, will want to have one more strong performance in front of their loyal fans. Valour, meanwhile, stressed the importance of approaching this game like any other after their loss last weekend to Cavalry, and will be keen for three more points as well.
Edmonton will have a boost in that Gaby Bitar — one of their best players this season — will finally return from injury after a spell on the sidelines with an injury, but will be without CJ Smith and Luke Singh, who are both suspended for this one. Stefan Cebara is suspended for Valour, while Diego Gutierrez and Moses Dyer are out through injury.
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3 THINGS TO WATCH:
Valour approaching this game like any other despite playoff elimination: After a 2-1 defeat to Cavalry FC in Calgary last weekend, Valour were officially eliminated from Canadian Premier League playoff contention. Despite that, the tone in their postgame press conference was that while they were disappointed, their approach for the final match against Edmonton doesn’t change. Three points are still the aim as always, even if they have no implications on the standings or league positioning. “I want to see our players approach training at 100 per cent, like we needed to win the game to make the playoffs,” said captain Daryl Fordyce after that loss to Cavalry. “It’s another game, we haven’t beat Edmonton this year. You can’t disrespect any team in this league, and you have to show character. You have to turn up no matter what, whether it’s a preseason, or a cup final. It’s about being a professional day in and day out.”
FC Edmonton set for final game this season in front of loyal fans: FC Edmonton have had a difficult season on the pitch at times this year. Despite picking up a trio of wins — all of them at Clarke Stadium — they have been at the bottom of the table since the fifth week of the season. None of that can be put on the players, they’ve faced a difficult ownership situation that made roster building difficult, but a lack of experience and maturity among the young group was noted time and time again by Koch this season. While the results on the pitch have been hard to come by, it’s not for a lack of effort from the players, who have seemingly given their all since the season kicked off at six months ago. It’s something of a full circle moment for The Eddies, as their season began against Valour FC at Clarke Stadium, the same way it will end. The crowd in Edmonton grew as the season went on, and remained loyal to their side during a difficult season, which Koch and the players are thankful for. “I’ve been in this business for decades, and the loyalty that has been shown by supporters here in Edmonton, by employees of this club, is some of the best I’ve ever seen anywhere,” said Koch on Friday. “I’m incredibly grateful for the support of our fans, of colleagues that have stuck with each other through everything we’ve gone through. We’d love to put in a good performance in the game tomorrow… we’ll go out and give it everything we can.”
With season ending, both sides reflect on the year that was: Coming into this season, FC Edmonton and Valour FC had very different expectations for themselves. The Eddies, as Alan Koch has said all season, entered the year with no expectations whatsoever — their situation off the field didn’t exactly allow them to shoot for the stars — but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to maximise the campaign, both individually and as a group. Players are competing for contracts, either in Edmonton or elsewhere, and are keen to play well for that reason, but team success has also been something that has come at times due to their superior work ethic. It was also a trying, but rewarding, year for Koch. “This in many respects is the most successful professional year of my life,” he said when asked about his personal reflections on the season. “Many people who have been in this project this year, we all could’ve walked away with what happened last offseason and how things transpired at the start of the season. The easy option was to leave, and that’s not just for me, that’s for many people that have worked for this club. I’m incredibly proud of everybody that’s shown up every single day…that really has done everything we can to help this club.” Valour, meanwhile, had aspirations of at least making the playoffs, if not more. After missing out on the playoffs by a single point a season ago, the club had aspirations of bringing the playoffs to Winnipeg in 2022, but after a magical run to get themselves into a playoff spot, had a poor run of form over the past month and were unable to hang on. Still, it was a season with a lot of ups — they’ve already picked up a club record for points and can break their record for wins on Saturday — it was just a lack of consistency that leaves Valour on the outside looking in again this season, but they think they’ve shown progress on and off the pitch. “When you’re almost there (in the playoffs), it’s a very dangerous spot,” said Dos Santos to CanPL.ca. “When you’re there, you’re there, you know you’re on the right track. When you’re far, you just go and try things and start over again. When you’re almost there you’re on dangerous ground because you don’t want to change too much, and sometimes being too conservative might be the reason you’re almost there and haven’t crossed the line yet.”
FC Edmonton wins: 3 || Valour FC wins: 5 || Draws: 7
August 21, 2022 — Valour FC 1-1 FC Edmonton
“We know it’s going to be another tough team. Valour are going to want to finish the season on a high, but we’re also going to want to finish the season on a high too. They’re a team that could’ve, or should’ve, made the playoffs, so they’ve pushed themselves all the way to the wire. We anticipate they’re going to come in very confident and put in a good performance tomorrow.” — FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch
“Edmonton is Edmonton. It’s a team that throughout the season, playing at home, they’re difficult to break down. They’re dangerous in transition. They’ve had some of their best results at home, and I think they want the same — they want to finish on a high note, and I expect a difficult game.” — Valour FC head coach Phillip Dos Santos