Valour FC traded punches with the Canadian Premier League’s top squad Sunday afternoon, going toe-to-toe with a bunch yet to taste defeat in 2024 in league play.

What they didn’t expect was for the killer blow to be delivered by the head official with an iffy penalty call against them that completely changed the complexion of what had been a well-played 0-0 draw with Atlético Ottawa through 57 minutes.

Ottawa would add second goal in extra time as the home side pressed for the equalizer in front of 4,228 at Princess Auto Stadium, but the match changed in one critical moment, and with that Valour’s modest three-game unbeaten streak – two wins and a draw – came to a sudden and abrupt end, dropping the team’s record to 2-1-6.

Afterward, Valour GM and head coach Phillip Dos Santos was quick to praise Atlético Ottawa, saying “they’re not in first place and undefeated in the CPL for nothing” while crediting the visitor’s push in the second half.

Still, Valour has now had three penalty kicks against in nine matches this season, with the call on midfielder Noah Verhoeven Sunday, who nudged Ruben Del Campo in the box, very questionable at best.

A fotball player with light skin tone in a white uniform runs with the ballNoah Verhoeven (11) moves the ball upfield at Princess Auto Stadium on Sunday, June 9. (Winnipeg Football Club)

“I just said Ottawa ended up being a fair winner. But let me now be here very honest: there’s a PK (penalty kick), which was a ghost PK in Halifax,” he said. “And today I think watching it very fast and talking about it afterward with my people… I think it’s another ghost PK and the PK changes momentum.

“The CPL is moving at a fast pace when it comes to the quality of the league. It’s growing a lot. But every weekend there’s a constant denominator. Every weekend there’s a decision that seems like a ghost decision that is made by referees. I don’t doubt their integrity, but if were all asked to be better and to help grow the game, well, we all have to do our part and today once again there’s a call that doesn’t exist.

“I’m going to get the report and it’s going to probably say there was maybe a contact, but I’m used to those. I just don’t think it was a PK and a team like Ottawa doesn’t need a situation like that to win a game. I say this, again, after admitting they were the better team in key moments today. I say it to see if at some point if there’s something that’s done to better the quality of refereeing in this league because I think right now it hasn’t been good enough.”

As Dos Santos suggested, this isn’t to take anything away from Ottawa, who had the better numbers on the day including possession (60.4 percent to 39.6), shots (14 to 8), shots on target (4 to 3) and corners (8 to 3).

A football player with dark skin tone runs with the ball past an opponent in a red & white striped shirt and navy shortsAbdul Binate (19) is in his first season with Valour FC. (Winnipeg Football Club)

Yet nothing changes a game more dramatically than a penalty kick chance and goal.

“Goals change games,” said Dos Santos. “We see how it changed in our favour in the last game (a 2-nil win over Vancouver FC). We get the first goal, and the opposition has to open up. Their second goal comes when we’re pressing a little bit more and projecting numbers forward.

“Goals change (games) and when it’s a goal that’s worked by the opposition, you take it. When it’s a goal that’s given to the opposition – and I’ll be the first one to admit when it’s a PK and a clear PK – I’ll raise my hand and say my comments after the game were unmeasured. But right now I’m confident enough to say what I’m saying because I rewatched it.

“It changes the game; it changes the momentum in a moment when the game was locked and was a bit of a chess match. Again, I’m going to say this: I don’t question the integrity and the intention of people but we’re all asked to do a job. Me, if I don’t do my job I’ll be judged by it. There’s people in this league who have already lost jobs. That’s the truth. We’re all called to do a job here; we’re all called to contribute – either it’s a player not getting a contract because he hasn’t produced to a coach being let go… this is part of the work, part of the growth of the league and I think it should pass by referees, too”

Valour will wrap up its three-match homestand this Friday against Pacific FC, with a 7 p.m. start.

This story originally appeared at and is republished here with permission.