The opportunities were plentiful, yet the finish was once again absent.
When a mildly controversial foul call was made on Valour FC midfielder Raphael Ohin just outside the box in the 58th minute, HFX Wanderers FC took full advantage.
On the free kick, forward Mohamed Kourouma provided a perfectly placed shot that beat keeper Tyson Farago to break a scoreless deadlock.
That was the decisive marker on Wednesday night as Valour FC was eliminated from the Voyageurs Cup Canadian Championship competition after the 2-0 loss before a boisterous crowd of 4,373 at IG Field.
“It was a tight angle. I thought we were set up properly. It was a well-struck ball. It just snuck in near post and we’ll want that back and continue to figure that out,” said Farago. “It was an important match and you need those bounces to go your way. It was just unfortunate that it happened then. I thought we were on the front foot and it just didn’t work out.”
With Valour FC pressing for an equalizer, Andre Bona scored into an empty net early in injury time to put the game on ice.
HFX Wanderers FC, which won the first leg of the series by a 2-1 score last Wednesday in Halifax, advance to the third round of the Voyageurs Cup Canadian Championship against the Ottawa Fury.
The storyline was a familiar one for Valour FC, as they had a dominant showing in terms of possession and were able to generate plenty of offensive opportunities but simply couldn’t deliver enough goals.
“We had tons of opportunities in front of the net, if you don’t capitalize, it comes back to bite you,” said Valour FC attacking midfielder Marco Bustos. “We had three or four really good opportunities to score and it just didn’t happen. That’s the way football goes.”
Does it become a bit of a mental challenge, since it’s been something that has plagued the group a lot this year?
“Personally, it probably puts a little bit of pressure when everyone is talking about it, that our team is not scoring,” said Bustos, who was one of the most creative players on the pitch and set up several Grade A scoring chances in the contest. “We’re keeping good possession, but not scoring. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to show up to training and just keeping working hard. You can’t fault the guys for missing chances, but we keep getting them. So we’re doing something good.”
The inability to convert more of those golden opportunities is cause for some consternation for Valour FC head coach and general manager Rob Gale.
“Deja vu. You lose words to describe the same thing continually,” said Gale. “We had so many opportunities to shoot inside the box. I think Bustos could’ve had a hat trick of assists. Great goal-scoring chances. Things that would open your eyes up and you’d be licking your lips as a striker, but for some reason, we don’t want to shoot and test the goal keeper. I don’t know why.
“I mean, what do you do? You sit here and I won’t fault my lads, I won’t fault their quality or their effort, but the challenge internally is we’ve got to be better.”
Valour FC midfielder Michael Petrasso suffered a suspected groin injury late in the first half and was subbed out for the second for Glenn Muenkat.
“We’ll have to get that assessed. I thought it was a foul that led to it,” said Gale. “But yeah, it’s unfortunate for Mike. He’ll have a little spell on the sidelines again unfortunately.”
Valour FC (3-3 in league play) is back in action on Saturday in Canadian Premier League spring season action in Hamilton against Forge FC and say it won’t be difficult to turn the page.
“Easily. That’s the beauty,” said Gale. “Back on. New game. That tournament’s done. We got bypassed to this round anyway, so well done to Halifax, who had to scrap out a longer route. Over the two days, they won both games. We’ll hold our hands up and move on. Let’s go play a good game against Forge. We’ve got nothing to fear there. We’ll get at it again, regroup, rebound and make sure we respond in the right way.”