Julian Brennan ’24
After an unprecedented mid-season transition, Winnipeg’sValour FC was able to edge into a playoff position in the final weeks of league play. Unfortunately, that all ended in Calgary on Thursday, October 2nd, after a lop-sided 2-1 loss to Cavalry FC––their fourth winless game in a row.
However, fans must not focus on the negative as this club has come a long way from previous years. Perhaps it is just the increasingly improving and intriguing nature of the Canadian Premier League, but it seems Valour FC, through new signings, new manager Phillip Dos Santos, and the rampaging post-pandemic spirit, has driven this team to become elite competitors.
This year, the squad acquired Billy Forbes, Matteo de Brienne, and Walter Ponce, who provided more depth in the attack. The three proved to be crucial to the team’s offense, having lost Valour’s all-time top goal scorer and Winnipeg’s favourite Kiwi, Moses Dyer, to an injury and a mid-season suspension. De Brienne, especially, can be highlighted for scoring one of the league’s top goals of the year, when he performed an acrobatic “bicycle” kick. De Brienne also proved to be one of the best youngsters in the league, having an immense engine and drive.
He often refers to himself as trying to replicate opposing a “Goliath,” executing dominance through sly power and strategy, much like that of the Biblical confrontation of Philistine warrior and underdog, David. In addition to these brilliant rookies, Sean Rea, on loan from C.F. Montréal, provided the Valour’s main offensive threat, having been nominated for player-of-the-year at just twenty years of age. Fans cannot disregard their stellar captain, Daryl Fordyce, as well as his skilled colleague, Diego Gutiérrez, who have proved successful in binding the squad’s lines this year.
Having many of the league’s best central defenders and wingbacks, Valour rarely concedes more than a mere goal. Some notable favourites include the (arguably) league’s best Brett Levis, Cuban Andy Baquero, Croatian refugee Stefan Cebara, 6’4 Rocco Romeo, and the list goes on. Nearly impeccable defence has allowed for consistently low-scoring games. Disregarding the fluky 6-1 win over league leading Atletico Ottawa, Valour often draws or wins by small margins. For instance, five of Valour’s ten wins came from 1-0 scores, a result of their strong defence and lack of offensive attack. However, this is largely just Manager Phil Dos Santos’ style of play, trusting a five-man back line. Throughout the season, his plan started to prove promising. Valour even saw themselves winning five times in a seven-game stretch; however, the final games of the season saw them fall short, which was truly unfortunate after the unforeseen progress throughout the season.
Valour ended with a home record of 7-4-3 (wins-draws-losses) and an away record of 3-3-8. Although ending poorly, Valour fans can only look at this season as a gateway to the next. For the first time in their history, the club has developed a gritty reputation, contended with top teams, built depth in their squad, and played like a passionate group of professional men. They have been an entertaining team to watch, representing Winnipeg with flair. Hopefully they can bring valour back to the pitch next year and take home the North Star Shield.
Photo credit; Canadian Premier League