Valour FC has a meltdown in Halifax heat, lose again

Canadian Premier League Valour FC

Halifax, Nova Scotia — Times are tough for Valour FC supporters. Valour’s last win came over two months ago, a 1-0 win over FC Edmonton on June 2. The team has now played 11 consecutive matches without a win, including eight losses throughout that span.

The streak continued yesterday, in a 1-0 loss to HFX Wanderers away from home. A 58th minute goal from HFX defender Matthew Arnone was enough to see VFC drop all three points. Two saves are all that it took for Christian Oxner to maintain a clean sheet in goal.

Valour FC has a Meltdown in Halifax Heat, Lose Again

The second half had plenty of drama to it.

Halifax’s goal was scored by an apparent handball inside the area. In addition, a total of five cards shown to Valour FC in the second half — including an absolute meltdown by Jordan Murrell that resulted in a sending off. Lastly, Valour had a chance to draw a third consecutive game with a second half stoppage time penalty, but the referee turned away appeals for a spot kick.


HFX fielded quite a standard lineup. The front three of Mohamed Kourouma, Luis Alberto Perea and Akeem Garcia posed a quality attacking threat. Thomas Skublak supported the attack and made his presence felt throughout the day. Elliot Simmonds and Andre Rampersad took on the role of holding midfielders. The steady backline of Langwa-Arnone-Schaale-Bona produced another strong showing for HFX. Finally, Christian Oxner got the start over veteran Jan-Michael Williams in goal.

Valour FC lined up with an intriguing formation. Ex-Juventus man Michele Paolucci led the line for Valour, with Petrasso and Bustos on his wings. Dylan Carreiro got the start as well, but did not make the most of his opportunity. Raphael Ohin returned to the starting lineup with Jose Galan to complete the midfield. The very familiar and fluid backline of Arguinarena-Mitter-Thomas-Murrell saw the field once again. To cap it off, Mathias Janssens got the start in goal for the injured Tyson Farago.

Defensive Issues for Valour

Build-up Play

Once again, Valour FC struggled to create much offense in this match. However, one of their biggest issues stems from the defensive side of the ball. Valour struggled on their build up play — and too many times gave the ball away cheaply. Twice in the first 15 minutes in this match a Valour defender turned the ball over to HFX attackers. This leads to unnecessary chances given to the Wanderers, which put VFC at a disadvantage early on.

Isolating the Attackers

This problem is not only defensively. However, it extends on to the forwards as well. The inability to build from the back isolates the forwards and prevents them from getting touches on the ball. Valour spends too much time defending or working on the build up. This leads to less meaningful possession, and it doesn’t allow VFC to flow very well on the attack.

Players like Bustos and Petrasso need to have the ball at their feet to be effective and that is not the case right now. Skylar Thomas lead the team in passes attempted yesterday. Usually it does not bode well when a defender is your main ball distributor — and not a more advanced player.

Set Piece Troubles

The Winnipeg-based side has an obvious issue defending corners and free kicks. This could be a systematic issue, lack of execution or a bit of both. However, HFX had multiple scoring chances off corners yesterday, as well as the game’s only goal. On the Wanderers goal, barely any Valour players even react to the ball or look alert. It’s almost as if the entire team switched off at once when the corner was delivered. Valour has now conceded a league leading six corner kicks against this season. VFC needs to turn this around as soon as possible to stay competitive.

HFX in Control

The Wanderers were in control for most of the game. Valour did have their moments, especially late in the game. However, HFX was steady throughout. This was an important win for the Wanderers, having lost five-straight CPL matches. Meanwhile, they were also winless in seven across all competitions.

The almost sold out crowd of 6,115 saw plenty of Thomas Skublak, who had lots of implications in the match. Skublak was on the ball lots in the first half, and had numerous duels with Valour FC left-back Martin Arguniarena. One thing that was apparent is the emotion and passion Skublak plays with. He was animated all throughout the game, and his impact was felt — whether good or bad — on plenty of occasions. He received a yellow card in the first half for arguing with an official. That certainly wasn’t the last time the referees were involved in this one.

Matthew Arnone Goal is the Difference

HFX Wanderers found their breakthrough goal in the 58th minute thanks to Matthew Arnone being at the right place at the right time. Mohamed Kourouma’s in-swinging corner kick handcuffed the Valour defenders, and Peter Schaale flicked the ball off Arnone and in. Schaale has been a threat on set pieces all season, and the wonderful breakthrough he has had for his career continues.

However, it was apparent that the goal from Arnone appeared to direct off of his hand. It was unclear originally, but the OneSoccer team slowed the footage down and noticed the flick off Arnone’s hand. On one hand, this is rotten luck for Valour FC, who could have used a break to go their way. On the other hand, with the way they defend corners, it was just a matter of time before a breakthrough. Either way, the goal stood up to be the match winner.

Valour FC’s Comeback Attempt

Valour FC woke up late in the match for this one, and looked threatening on a couple of occasions. Their best chance came missing at the feet of Glen Muenkat. The substitute has a great opportunity fall to him in the 86th minute. Petrasso swung a ball into the box, and the goalkeeper Oxner parried the ball straight to Muenkat. However, his effort went inches wide and Valour’s best chance of the game went missing.

The key man in the resurrection late in the game of VFC was Michael Petrasso. The former QPR man started out as a left midfielder, but in the second half began to roam everywhere. In his first start back from injury, he played a wonderful 90-plus minutes. When he had the ball at his feet, he was effective, and his 89 percent passing accuracy led all VFC starters.

Jordan Murrell’s Meltdown

Red Card

In the 89th minute, frustrations boiled over for Valour FC’s captain Jordan Murrell. The skipper got up from a challenge and shove the official out of the way. It was by no means a malicious or harmful shove, but laying hands on an official is inexcusable and deserving of discipline. That alone is deserving of a suspension.

Table Kick

On his way off the pitch, this is where things got even uglier. The former Real Salt Lake draft pick approached the scorers table and kicked the table with a staff member sitting just behind it. Equipment went flying everywhere and the employee was completely unsuspecting of it. This is absolutely no way to conduct yourself in a professional manner at any level. However, the fact it came from the captain makes it even more disappointing. Take a look for yourself at the video:

Murrell is lucky no one got hurt and if his suspension is less than 10 games he will be lucky. Obviously playing with emotion and passion is part of the sport, but this sort of action does not represent what the CPL is about. This is a bad look on Murrell, as well as VFC as a whole. Murrell needs to conduct himself better in the future to regain the trust of fans, coaches, and players.

Murrell wasn’t the only one visibly upset. The entire Valour team struggled to stay composed. Winless in 11 takes its tole on everybody. With five cards handed out to VFC players and staff in the last eight minutes plus added time, Valour clearly seeing red. Seeing VFC play with more emotion would be a welcome sight. However, channelling their frustrations into something within their control would be a better place to start.

VFC nearly get third straight penalty in dying moments

At the end of all this mayhem, Valour nearly escaped with a draw for the third straight match. Langwa clearly pulled Petrasso down inside the area, and the PK should have been given. Valour already got bailed out the last two matches with two stoppage time penalties, and were denied a clear penalty to end this one. It is unfortunate that the referee missed the call, but with the way VFC played, dropping all three points was probably a fair result. VFC recorded zero shots on goal in the second half, which is completely uninspiring.

What’s Next?

Controversy was definitely at the forefront in this one. With red cards, handball goals, late penalty shouts, and nine minutes played after the full ninety, it was great entertainment. In the end, HFX breaks their streak of five straight CPL losses, and continues home dominance at Wanderers Grounds. With only six points from seven games, they are realistically still out of contention in the Fall season.

Valour will have to deal with the imminent suspension to Jordan Murrell. Without a captain, and a consistent defender, VFC will be at a loss at the back. Opportunity for the likes of Deigo Gutierrez and Raphael Garcia open up at right-back. Valour will try to rebound during their next match as they take on York 9 on Aug. 10. They have some work to do in order to avoid another last place finish in the table.


PHOTO: Valour FC Midfielder Dylan Carreiro (10) and HFX Wanderers FC Attacker Akeem Garcia (11) chase a ball. (Trevor MacMillan/CPL)