Valour FC announced on Friday that it has -re-signed Panamanian centre-back Amir Soto for the 2021 CPL season.
Soto, 23, signed with Valour in February from CD Universitario in Panama’s first division, but he was unable to join the Winnipeg-based club in PEI for The Island Games due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“He has done everything to stay connected with us,” Valour GM and coach Rob Gale told CanPL.ca. “The big story for me, and why we are so excited to have him for next year, is he proved from afar that he was willing to do everything.
“He was on every Zoom call, every video chat. He joined us virtually in the bubble at the Island Games. A couple of times we called him up from (PEI) and involved him in team meetings.
“He also contacted us after the first game and gave a talk to the boys about our next game. He was with us every step of the way and that takes a special character to stay that connected when he was waiting and waiting and waiting for so long to be a part of it and then ultimately he realized he was not going to be a part of it.”
Soto originally signed with Valour after being identified by the CPL’s centralized scouting system of young internationals (age 23 and under), which is run by the league’s soccer operations department and 21st Club, a world-class data and analytics group with offices in London, San Francisco, and Singapore.
It was another Panamanian player, former Pacific FC midfielder Alex Gonzalez, who spoke to Soto about the CPL and playing in Canada, helping to pave the way for his move to Valour.
“He was my teammate two, three years ago here in Panama and he tells me the league is at a very, very high level and very, very professional,”Soto told CanPL.ca back in February. “I was talking to him a few days ago and he said Valour is a nice team and a professional team. He said it’s a great opportunity.
“When I learned that Valour was interested in me I looked at the team and the club. I saw it was a beautiful city and the stadium… it’s really, really exciting for me. I saw Valour is doing the best they can to have a nice season this year.”
Aside from playing for CD Universitario in his native Panama, Soto signed with Ringkøbing IF in Denmark’s second division in 2018. Later that year he was called up to Panama’s senior team for a match against Venezuela.
“Amir is a high-level, international Concacaf-quality defender. Getting him back is a real big deal for us. We wanted to show the same loyalty back to him that he did to us. He’s already a part of our culture without having even been here yet,” Gale said.
For the 2021 CPL campaign, Valour FC has already announced the return of defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste, forward Masta Kacher, and midfielders Brett Levis, Stefan Cebara and Raphael Ohin. The club also decided not to renew the contract of midfielder Dylan Carreiro.