On Thursday, the Canadian Premier League revealed that Valour FC’s Matteo de Brienne had been named as the league’s 2023 Best Canadian U-21 Player.
The award is given to the player voted best among U-21 Canadians by media members from across the country and representatives of CPL clubs’ technical leadership.
The 21-year-old from Ottawa, Ont. had an outstanding sophomore season in the league. Despite being hampered by injury in the middle portion of the campaign, De Brienne made 20 appearances, finishing second in the league in interceptions with 40, while adding three goals and three assists. He also won the possession 7.62 times per 90, which is the fourth most of any CPL player this season.
“He has grown every game, he has grown since last year a lot,” said Valour FC Head Coach Phil Dos Santos. “You see a young player that what you get in the games is what you get in training, it is the way that he is, it is his state of mind and he never cheats. When you are like that, even though you have deficiencies in your game, and you are not perfect, you will grow, you will progress and I think that’s what he does.”
A player with a flair for the dramatic, De Brienne has become known for scoring highlight reel goals, as he did in June of this year against York, and his trademark front flip celebration.
Each Canadian Premier League club must achieve a minimum of 2,000 minutes played by domestic U-21 players to be eligible for the playoffs. De Brienne alone played 1,571 as Valour went on to finish second in the league with 4,390 U-21 minutes.
It is the second consecutive year that a Valour FC player has won the award, as attacker Sean Rea took home the honours in 2022. Past recipients of the Best Canadian U-21 award include Alessandro Hojabrpour, who at the time played for Pacific FC (2021), Cavalry’s Mo Farsi (2020) and Forge’s Tristan Borges (2019).
Vancouver FC’s James Cameron and Forge FC’s Kwasi Poku were the other two nominees for this year’s award.
The league’s Best Canadian U-21 Player is awarded the Polar Bear, a sculpture carved by Cape Dorset artist Taqialuk Nuna. The young Polar Bear is known for being playful and adored by all before growing into one of the most respected animals in Canada’s north.