All season long, CanPL.ca reviewed key performers from each Canadian Premier League match, giving due credit to a trio of 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 inaugural CPL campaign.
Things didn’t turn out quite the way Rob Gale hoped for his Valour FC side in 2019. They landed at the bottom of the table in the Spring season, and finished fifth in the Fall after a strange up-and-down year.
The memory that will survive from Valour’s inaugural season might be, much to their fans’ dismay, the 8-0 drubbing given them by Cavalry FC in September.
Still, the Winnipeg-based side showed some flair in 2019, playing some eye-catching attacking soccer in their first season. Their goal differential was the worst in the league, but their 30 goals across both seasons was respectable.
With that in mind, it’s a trio of attackers who performed best for Valour in 2019, accounting for 19 of the club’s goals this year.
3 Key Performers for 2019
1. Marco Bustos
Position: Winger/attacking midfielder
Appearances (starts): 25 (25)
Minutes played: 2,250
Goals: 7 (Most on team)
Shots on target: 27
Successful 1v1s: 54
Pass accuracy: 83.4%
This 23-year-old Winnipeg native was easily the most electric Valour player in 2019, and probably one of the most entertaining players in the CPL. His year will be best remembered for the 20-yard stunner he scored 30 seconds into a game at Tim Hortons Field, but he was worth the price of admission every day.
Bustos led Valour with seven goals, creating most of them himself by dribbling through layers of defenders. Standing just five-foot-six-inches, Bustos wasn’t daunted by larger opponents, and he frequently made them look silly by beating them with pace and technical skill.
Valour managed to secure his signature just over a week into the 2019 season, getting him involved as quickly as possible. He hadn’t found anywhere to thrive at that point in his pro career, having failed to make much of an impact at Zacatepec in Mexico or with Oklahoma City Energy in the USL. He’d done well as a starter with Whitecaps FC 2, but that was a few years ago.
It seems that a return home was exactly what Bustos needed.
What they said: “I don’t know how it came about, but thank you Oklahoma. I may go back and visit their coach and buy him a pint at the end of the season” – Rob Gale, Valour FC
2. Michael Petrasso
Position: Left winger/attacking midfielder
Appearances (starts): 18 (15)
Minutes played: 1,301
Big chances: 8
Successful 1v1s: 30
Pass accuracy: 79.1%
Petrasso was a very recognizable name in Canadian soccer when he arrived at Valour, and not just because he once got slapped by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He’d been around the block in the English Championship and League One, he had nine Canadian men’s national team caps, and he’d been a serviceable contributor for the Montreal Impact in 2018.
He struggled with injuries in 2019, but he did not disappoint when he got into the lineup regularly. Petrasso jumped out to a raring start in the Fall season after returning to match fitness, scoring five times in six games in August. He was very creative in a variety of positions, frequently linking up with Bustos to provide offence.
What they said: “He’s a player who has terrific dynamic attacking qualities and has been a key component of every Canadian squad since U-17” – Rob Gale, Valour FC
3. Tyler Attardo
Appearances (starts): 20 (10)
Minutes played: 997
Big chances: 7
Pass accuracy: 61.7%
The CPL emerged as a platform for young local players to make a name for themselves in 2019, and that’s exactly what happened for Tyler Attardo. Not even turning 18 until September, he was one of the league’s most efficient scorers, finding the net six times in just 997 minutes.
Of the teenagers across the league, only Easton Ongaro at FC Edmonton made more of an impact. Attardo, a Winnipeg native on his first senior contract, caught Rob Gale’s attention at the Got Game Open Trials last October. He’d spent time in the youth system of Chievo Verona in Italy, but a professional opportunity didn’t seem to be on the horizon.
However, Valour took a flyer on the youngster, and it worked out. Attardo was in a battle for starting minutes all year, but when he came off the bench, he was a wonderful complement to Bustos and Petrasso in one of the most dangerous attacking tridents in the league.
What they said: “He is a great story. I’ve been in youth development a long time. You’ve got to be patient. We’ve talked to Tyler about that earlier in the season and said ‘You’ll get opportunities’ – and, sometimes, he’ll get battered and physically clattered, and get targeted, and other times, there’s more game to come from him.” – Rob Gale, Valour FC