Valour Begins Much-Needed Roster Overhaul
After Winnipeg’s Valour FC finished dead last in Canadian Premier League standings, the club is set for quite a bit of turnover as it looks to reaffirm its ambition to the city it calls home.
While it’s fair to say fans were rather nonplussed to see head coach Phillip Dos Santos get an extension as club boss Wade Miller urged fans to stick the team for another year, the decision makers behind the team are certainly shaking things up from a roster point of view.
As things stand, only seven players are set to return for Valour come the 2024 CPL season. That begins with the big frame of Golden Glove nominee Rayane Yesli, with second-string shotstopper Darlington Murasiranwa also having his option for 2024 activated.
Left-back Jordan Haynes will also be returning to IG Field next year, having looked like a good pickup when he finally got to play after a prolonged spell on the sidelines. Also returning are Marcello Polisi, Juan Pablo Sanchez, and Dante Campbell, while it’s no surprise to see forward Kian Williams – one of the club’s few sparkmakers in attack – locked in for 2024.
That being said, there are more players who might be back: the club has until December 31 to trigger its options on defenders Andy Baquero, Abdou Samake, and Klaidi Cela, while club original Raphael Ohin and their best thing going forward – Burundi international Pacifique Niyongabire – are also waiting club decisions.
There are also a string of players now out-of-contract, though Valour FC are still in discussions with some of them. These include big centre-back Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who has been a core figure despite never returning to his Island Games form, and young full-back Matteo de Brienne, whom Atletico Ottawa have expressed an interest in.
Also out-of-contract are Chilean forward Walter Ponce, young defender Guillaume Pianelli, and Diego Gutierrez, who’s second spell with the club has seen him don the captain’s armband quite frequently throughout the past year.
Now, onto the exit list – and it’s not small. The confirmed departures currently stand at seven so far.
The club was left parched for goals this season after a failure to replace the likes of William Akio and Moses Dyer, both of who left in 2022. This year’s forward line saw the additions of Anthony Novak, Jared Ulloa, Ahinga Selemani, and Jaime Siaj combine for just two goals split between the four of them, so it’s not surprising to see that none of them had their options for 2024 picked up.
The Winnipeg-based side also confirmed that full-back Eskander Mzoughi will not have his option taken, nor will centre-back Matthew Chandler, who suffered a long-term injury shortly after his arrival. Midfielder Kevin Rendon‘s time at the club is also ending after two years saw the Colombian feature 21 times with nary an assist to his name.
Head coach Phillip Dos Santos, who arrived as the club’s second-ever head coach midway through the 2021 CPL season, admitted to Ed Tait that the team’s areas of need became exposed earlier than they wanted them to in 2023, so it was important to get a head start on 2024.
“It’s a very competitive market and our priority was always our domestic targets and we tried to work on those early in the process,” says the gaffer. “We’re working. There’s a lot of work being done.”
The gaffer had previously stated he was hopeful for better scouting to aid with their signings, so it’s interesting to see that the club will be going with a focus on domestic athletes. To that end, he revealed that there are Canadian signings with CPL experience whom are already under contract, and they will be revealed in the very near future.
With the club pursuing these athletes with an ‘aggressive and proactive’ early approach, it’ll be interesting to see how the roster rebuild takes shape. With average attendance down about 2,000 fans from its inaugural season, one feels that finally making playoffs would go a long way in restoring the faith.
For now, the building blocks to that path are being put into place. Whether the club can follow it to success remains to be seen.
Header Image Photo Credit: John Jacques