Questions answered led to only more questions being asked as Valour FC’s inaugural CPL season wrapped up in October.
Was there a market for pro soccer in Winnipeg? Yes. Valour averaged over 5,000 fans per game with a crowd that lived up to the reputation of other Winnipeg sports teams. Fans were loud, and proudly decked out in team colours, thanks to a lot of hard work by the Red River Rising supporters group that started over a year before the team was even announced. Players gave rave reviews of the fan experience and atmosphere at IG Field.
Was there enough Manitoba talent to give the club a local feel? Yes. Individual performances by Marco Bustos, Dylan Carreiro and Tyler Attardo made the case that hometown talent belonged at this level.
But what is next for a team fresh off a season best described as up and down? The highs were certainly euphoric for Rob Gale’s troops, but equally substantial were the lows. From injuries, suspensions and an 8-0 loss thrown in, there’s a lot to remember for anyone that witnessed every minute of it. Here’s our 2019 Year in Review for Valour FC.
Look, it’s pro sports. Injuries happen. But rarely does it happen as often as it did for Valour FC in 2019. It also always seemed to strike at the worst times.
Take May 9th’s 1-0 loss to Cavalry FC, for example. Valour was starting to build confidence and seemed likely to hold the eventual Spring champs to a draw. Instead, two key players were subbed out with injuries. Star winger Michael Petrasso was first to leave the match and would only play once more the entire Spring campaign. (He scored five goals and tallied three assists in the Fall).
Later on, Josip Goluber suffered a knee injury that would end his time in the Canadian Premier League entirely. This reporter was told several times by club officials about the influence the Croatian could potentially have once he settled in. Goluber underwent knee surgery and has yet to return. If you’re Valour, you wonder what could have been.
And that was just the beginning. Valour either had a player missing due to, or playing with an injury for every match for the rest of the season. Only Dylan Carreiro dressed for all 30 games Valour played between the Canadian Premier League and Canadian Championship. Tyson Farago battled through what turned out to be a fractured finger in the Fall, while fellow goalkeeper Mathias Janssens dealt with his own ailments. In all, Valour FC calculated 103 lost games due to injuries.
Golubar was not the only player that saw injuries bring his season to an early end. Martin Arguinarena missed the final 10 games of the Fall with a knee issue, and Louis Beland-Goyette sat out the last five games with a back injury.
Even when reinforcements arrived, they went down injured, too. Yohan Le Bourhis was brought in as cover on the backline; he missed the final two games of the Fall with a concussion. Midfielder Jose Galan made up for the veteran presence left vacant by Golubar, but also missed time with a shoulder injury and played through other issues.
All the injuries meant a variety of starting lineups and formations, and players forced into new positions. Central midfielders Raphael Ohin and Diego Gutierrez both took shifts at right back. The five-foot-seven-inch Ohin even played as a central defender when injuries piled up.
With that, it’s not surprising the defensive numbers weren’t great for the Winnipeg side. Valour gave up the most goals in the Fall and Spring seasons* (tied with HFX). But when defenders and goalkeepers alike took turns on the shelf, it was not easy to get chemistry.
Speaking of chemistry, I’ll cap this off with a story from my reporting on the May 11th 1-0 victory over HFX Wanderers. Valour started Jordan Murrell at left fullback, Raphael Garcia at right fullback and Skylar Thomas played with Adam Mitter at centre back. I made several notes on how well the group was playing; it looked like the beginning of something. But that was the match where Adam Mitter memorably needed his shoulder put back into place and he was subbed out. That back four did not start another game as a unit. “We never had the option to play the same starting eleven for two games in a row,” Rob Gale said.
Will depth at the back be the fix? Could the key players stay healthy in 2020? Who replaces those already on their way out? It will be quite an off season in Winnipeg.
Valour FC’s Top 5 goals from 2019
End-of-season stat sheet
Valour FC will have wanted to hit higher highs in 2019, despite facing injury issues throughout the campaign. Here’s how the team performed on the stat sheet:
Assist leader: Michael Petrasso (5) – joint-top of league.
Home wins: 4 of 16 (all comps.)
“It’s important for these lads to appreciate the privileged position we are in to represent the name and represent our province doing something we love doing every single day. That’s something I don’t want these guys to ever take for granted. I want to make sure we go out and represent that name with the honour and respect it deserves every single day,” – Rob Gale after the club visited the monument on Valour Road, which bears the story of the club’s name.
“It’s kind of like a slap in the face, I don’t think it can get worse than that so (we) can just learn from it and try to move forward,” – Louis Beland-Goyette after an 8-0 loss to Cavalry FC.
“We’ve delivered on our mandate of what we’re about as a club – the values and the vision of what we want to be – and now it’s our job to go and find the players that can step up. We’re top of the heap for attendance, and we’ve got a great fan culture, with an excellent connection with our club and the community. We’re out there all the time, and been all over Manitoba. Now we know what the level is – we have to go out and improve to get consistency on the field in year two,” – Rob Gale at the end of the season.
Most memorable moment
What a moment for Winnipeg’s Dylan Carreiro, when he scored a 78th-minute winner at Pacific FC on May 1, giving Valour a 2-1 win in their first ever match.
Known to coach Rob Gale since he was eight, Carreiro was called upon as a second half substitute by his long time mentor and told “You’re going to go on and win this game for me.” Carreiro did exactly that.
CCL! Final Thoughts: Valour FC’s 2019 Season
Centre Circle LIVE! is joined by Ryan Brandt from Winnipeg to talk Valour FC’s 2019 campaign.