All season long, CanPL.ca reviewed key performers from each Canadian Premier League match, giving due credit to players who impressed over 90 minutes. Now, we offer this one last look at standout performers for Valour FC to bring a close to an exciting second CPL campaign.
Valour FC was a team built from the back in 2020.
Makes sense for Winnipeg’s three key performers from the Island Games to be defence-minded, no?
“If you defend, well, you have a platform to go forward,” Valour coach Rob Gale after his stalemate with York9 FC, now York United FC, at the Island Games. “With the stability and the organization behind the ball we have the chance to play the football I try to play.”
Between a pair of shutdown centre-backs and a tireless defensive midfielder in front, this trio formed a deadly triangle at the base of Winnipeg’s lineup on PEI.
Here are CanPL.ca’s top three performers from Valour FC’s 2020 season.
Julian Dunn made the absolute most out of his high-profile loan from Toronto FC, playing every minute in an award nomination-worthy season with Valour.
Slotting alongside Andrew Jean-Baptiste, the 20-year-old was one half of arguably the best centre-back partnership at the Island Games, using his size to prevent balls in behind or from running too close to his six-foot-three frame. Dunn completed 2.5 headed duels and won 1.18 aerial duels per 90 minutes on PEI, both tops among CPL defenders.
Dunn’s shining moment came in the second clean sheet of the tournament, against York9 FC, now York United FC, where he provided impressive defensive aptitude for a second straight shutout. Enough to be nominated for the Canadian Premier League Under 21 Player of the Year.
The youngster had a lot more freedom to close down attackers and do the impressive, eye-catching work knowing his centre-back partner would back him up…
What they said:“There’s a desire there from both parties, the players and the parent clubs. Now we’ll just have to wait until the new (MLS) season begins and see how those players stand in the depth chart of their parent clubs.” – Valour coach Rob Gale on bringing MLS loanees Dunn, James Pantemis back to Winnipeg for 2021.
The 28-year-old’s discipline and poise in defending was what set him apart from Valour’s defensive group of 2019. He committed just five fouls in the defensive third and wasn’t booked once; he was, technically, at fault for conceding a penalty kick to Cavalry FC, although the handball was an unfortunate break for him.
Here’s Jean-Baptiste’s body of work from arguably Valour’s best game in PEI, their 4-0 win over Atlético Ottawa. He was active winning the ball in the left half-space and penalty area, and he was very keen to move passes forward (13 of them, to be exact) to left-back Brett Levis.
The 28-year-old fought tooth and nail to grind out results, even after taking a boot to the face in one match, but he was eventually sidelined by injury.
What they said:“There was also the optimism we left with after the bubble tournament. We felt like we left a lot of stuff unfinished and we want to bring back a lot of the same guys, and maybe a few extra pieces, so that we can have a bigger fight next season.” – Andrew Jean-Baptiste on returning to Winnipeg in 2021.
3. Raphael Ohin
Appearances (starts): 7 (6)
Minutes played: 507
Passing percentage: 86% (team-best)
Passes ending in final third: 63 (3rd best)
Possession won: 36 (team-high)
Ohin’s second season in the Canadian Premier League built on a solid rookie campaign. He appeared in all seven matches at The Island Games in PEI, totalling 500 minutes as a sprawling defensive midfielder ready to snatch at opponents entering pockets of space.
But passing and possession were the real jewels in the Ghanaian’s crown. Ohin finished the Island Games with the club’s best passing percentage (86 per cent) and contributed 63 passes into the final third, helping springboard a sometimes-ineffective attack with pace and diagonal passes.
His physicality caught the attention of CPL coaches, too, showing an ability to eat up minutes and go late into matches with energy.
What they said: “People have been asking me the question over the last few months, ‘Raph, what is next? Are you going somewhere? You had a great season last year and this year you had a good tournament? Are going somewhere?’ The only thing I tell them is I’m happy where I am right now. I’m a Valour guy and there’s nothing better than playing in front of your own fans.” – Raphael Ohin on returning to Winnipeg in 2021.