When you boil it down, soccer can be a simple game.
For Valour FC, who have scored in just one of four matches at The Island Games (that one being a four-goal onslaught against Atlético Ottawa, though), there’s just one major thing that needs to start going right: they’ve got to put the ball in the net.
Asked how Valour might find some more goals in its remaining three first-round games in PEI after falling 2-0 to Pacific FCon Tuesday, coach Rob Gale had a simple (if curt) answer: “You put it past the goalie. Between the sticks, and underneath the crossbar.”
Gale identified a failure to capitalize on chances as the most pressing issue for Valour against Pacific. The frustration of their snakebitten attackers was exemplified most glaringly by Dylan Carreiro’s heartbreaking missed penalty in the 85th minute.
That aside, Gale was bullish on his team’s much-improved play in the second half, when they fired six shots on target and continued to ask questions of Pacific’s defence with pacey runners.
“Got in behind ’em, simple as that. Over and over again in the second half,” Gale said. “We worked on some spaces to exploit, and we had willing runners getting in over and over again. We created the overloads in the right areas, so that was a lot more positive in the second half.”
Valour’s first half definitely was markedly different, with their possession a little shy and slow at times. Of course, the only reason they went into halftime down a goal was an unlucky error by defender Julian Dunn, whose slide to cut off a cross put the ball right in the path of goalscorer Alejandro Díaz (Gale called in “an honest mistake”).
Gale pointed out that they’d perhaps made a few too many short midfield passes, failing to attack the space around Pacific midfield pivot Jamar Dixon.
“I think we held onto the ball a little bit and didn’t move it sharply, didn’t skip lines and get it into the pockets either side of their single pivot, which we did much better in the second half,” Gale explained.
“We only had one training session with a few heavy bodies, so we’d worked on a few opposite movements and runs to get in behind, and you saw that in the second half, so that was the difference.”
The Winnipeg-based club went with a slightly different look to their own lineup on Tuesday, moving Diego Gutierrez into a two-man unit at the base of midfield along with Raphael Ohin.
The Island Games have certainly taken a toll on Valour, with a long list of injuries currently making it hard to play exactly as they’d like. They’ve now had a left back go down to injury on three occassions, with Federico Peña on Tuesday joining Brett Levis and Arnold Bouka Moutou.
All four of their games have been played on two days’ rest, as well — which means just one day of full training to prepare for each opponent so far.
“I think we’ll be ready and energized by that last half an hour of football, where we’ve played so many games in a short space of time, and still managed to put that level of energy into the end of the game,” Gale said.
With an extra day to prepare for Saturday’s clash with FC Edmonton, Valour will be desperate to recover from the gruelling first half of their campaign. Although they technically still sat fourth in the CPL table Tuesday night, the three games on Wednesday and Thursday will surely give them a clearer picture of how badly they’ll need a win against the Eddies.