Valor FC 1-0 Forge FC – CPL Game #90 – Canadian Premier League

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Final score: Valor FC 1-0 Forge C
Scorers: Levi’s 73′
Game of the season 2022: 90
CPL Match: 340


Match in a minute or less

Valor FC crossed the playoff line this week after beating Forge FC 1-0 for the second time in a row. Brett Levis scored the only goal of the game after drifting in from the left flank and playing a brilliant one-two with Valor captain Daryl Fordyce.

The two clubs are now tied on 36 points in the Canadian Premier League standings, with Forge still a spot higher in third place on goal difference.

However, Valor and Forge appear to be going in different directions as Forge has lost four of its last five. Valor, on the other hand, recorded their third consecutive clean sheet, all against playoff contenders, and have now won five of their last seven, losing just once in this impressive stretch.


Three observations

Valor advances to playoff position, goal now shifts to protect progress

It was undoubtedly the most impressive week in the history of Valor football club as they left no doubt that this is now a five horse race for the four Canadian Premier League playoff contenders.

After losing star player William Akio in mid-July and then failing to win their next three games, all against the top four sides, it looked like any hope of postseason football in Winnipeg was fading.

But with Valor now winning five out of seven, including this week’s two victories over Forge and victories over Pacific and Cavalry in August, Valor has managed an unlikely climb up the league table.

“We’ve worked very hard to get back in contention for the playoffs,” said club captain Daryl Fordyce. “That was one of our goals at the beginning of the year and a few weeks ago you could say we were out. But we dug in, we got ourselves back in a good position.”

Having missed the playoffs by just a single point last season, however, no one in the Valor room will be under the illusion that this is “job done.” Now that they’re finally above the playoff line, the mentality of staying there is changing.

But with five games remaining, that task will certainly not be easy. They have just one home game left this run and meet fellow playoff hopefuls Cavalry FC and Atlético Ottawa in this stage.

“I asked the guys to protect the progress we’ve made, that’s the most important thing,” said Dos Santos. “Once you’re over that line we have to do everything we can to try and stay there and it starts next weekend.”

With the way Valor has been able to rake in results over the past few weeks, all of which have been deserved, it’s hard to bet against them continuing in this form.

Valor limits Forge’s ability to dictate the pace of play through possession and pressing

For the second game in a row, Valor not only defeated but eliminated the league’s highest-scoring team. After scoring early and closing shop on Wednesday, they pursued a more active and ultimately more effective defense today.

Part of that was taking a page from Forge’s book and “defending with possession,” making sure they were more on the ball and not just letting Forge dictate the pace of the game. This was particularly effective in the first half, where they had 57 percent possession. While that dropped to 47.1 percent by full-time, it was still far more on the ball than the 39.3 percent they hit midweek. They also made just 15 defensive clearances compared to 22 on Wednesday, showing a greater commitment to maintaining possession.

It wasn’t always effective, with Valor losing the ball in some dangerous areas throughout the game when perhaps holding it for too long. But especially in the first half, Forge really didn’t allow for the usual long streaks of possession that are so important to their team identity.

“Our guys read the situations well, they were again colossal in the way they went about their defensive actions,” said Dos Santos. “I think we had a lot of possession at half-time. For me that was important. Yes, defend well, but try to have the ball so we have to defend as little as possible. When we need to defend, defend as high as possible with players around the ball and make sure we have strong offensive coverage, with our center backs being brave and not allowing Forge to come out with quick transitions. So I think we did a lot of those things well.”

The chart below shows Valor’s defensive actions throughout the game, including how high up the pitch they were able to consistently recapture the ball and disrupt Forge in possession.

Courtesy Opta

Valor also did a great job picking the right moments to attack Forge’s ball carrier. They sat back and were well organized for long stretches, only to pounce on an errant touch or lost pass when they had the numbers and protection to do it.

“If you don’t get your press right, they can certainly open you up and hurt you,” Fordyce said. “We’ve been pretty solid in the last two games. I thought today in the first half we actually paid a little more attention to the ball, we actually passed Forge in the first half. But whenever Forge had the ball, we knew our roles, we knew our responsibilities, and we fought for each other, we covered for each other, and that was important.

Forge is struggling for answers after another game without a goal

It has now been 308 minutes since Forge last found the back of the net, by far the longest stretch in club history. After their third straight game without scoring, Forge returns to Hamilton with plenty of questions about how they can get back to the form in which they’ve scored 40 league goals this season.

The chances weren’t there either, as this marks the sixth straight game in which Forge has scored less than an expected goal. They had just .34 today and didn’t register a shot on goal despite nine tries.

When asked what’s been wrong offensively for his team lately, Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis didn’t have many answers, but knows improvements must come quickly.

“I don’t know because it’s gotten to a point where we’ve been hit and then we show a powerful effort to reach the opponent’s goal,” he said. “Why before? I’m not sure if we need to discuss that with the players, but we’ve had situations in the game where we could be there, we could be doing the right things, but we just don’t. We’re not clicking as a team right now. We started the game with about 30 goals on the pitch between the players that were there, so it has to get better.

The old adage that games in the hand are only valuable if you can win them has been proven true for Forge as they now sit just a single point in the playoffs and have played the same number of games as the fifth-place finisher Pacific. Any margin for error that previously existed is quickly disappearing for the Hamilton side.

“We missed a big chance in some of those games that we had to pull away from everyone a bit. Now everyone is on the same beat, everyone plays themselves at some point and games are important. So it’s going to be pretty exciting for the neutrals as we move into this next set of games.”

CanPL.ca Player of the Match

Brett Levis, Valor FC

The Valor full-back was already a deserved player of the match before scoring the only goal of the game in the 73rd minute. Levis had the most touches of any player on the court with 84, regaining possession 11 times, including five interceptions and three tackle wins. He set the tone for the Winnipeg team throughout the game.

What’s next?

On Saturday, September 10 (2:00pm ET/1:00pm CT), Valour’s home game concludes as they head to Halifax to meet the Wanderers to seek revenge after invading Nova Scotia last month 1-0 result had lost. Forge returns home for another crucial game, this time against Cavalry on Saturday, September 10 (5:00 p.m. ET).

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