May 20, 2024
  • May 20, 2024
Valour FC Darlington Murasiranwa

Big Moment For Murasiranwa, Who’s Next Man Up For Valour

By on May 10, 2024 0 669 Views

If Valour FC is start collecting points this month, Darlington Murasiranwa is going to play a key role in doing so.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper is being called upon by Winnipeg’s CPL side in a moment of need: with Jonathan Viscosi now sidelined for a couple weeks, Murasiranwa will step into a starting role as the club sees to close out what has been a tough eight-game road trip to open to the season.

“You’re seeing different places, but at the same time it’s been challenging,” reflects the goalkeeper, who’s calling from his team’s hotel in Vaughan. The club’s Ontario-based away trip now has them on the precipice of their away fourth game in ten days, which is quite a prolonged trip away from home.

While they’re in the final stretch, the Valour shotstopper is only focused on the game in his immediate future. That’s against York United tonight, another team with a chip on their shoulder who will come in hungry to start racking up points. This is a game that will probably get chippy.

“Going into this game, we’ve got to embrace every moment: focus on the little things instead of trying to look at the end result,” says Darlington of the match. He’s a very live-in-the-moment goalkeeper, so he won’t build it up for more than it is: an opportunity for three points.

His focus on the present is a good thing, too, because reflecting on his first game between the sticks this year is a tough task: it was the club’s cup record seven-nil loss to Atletico Ottawa, his first start of the season after earning his first two for Valour in 2023.

Valour FC Darlignton Murasiranwa
Photo Credit: Tim Austen / Freestyle Photography

“It’s football, you know? You’re not always going to win everything. We took it as a stepping stone, and what we we learned from that – what I learned, personally – we had to keep our chin up. I keep my head forward,” he says. He came off the bench to face that same Ottawa side just a few days after, jumping in when Viscosci went down and stopping anything else from going in net that time around.

“When I went I feel like there was no pressure coming from that last game,” he reflects. “In my head, I just told myself ‘how worse can it get’, you know? I went in and played my game, and my mindset was the same. Go out and perform.”

They lost 2-0 from goals before Murasiranwa came on, but it was an improved showing overall. Head coach Phillip Dos Santos is now calling on his team to put in more complete performances, relying on the 23-year-old Murasiranwa in a big moment: with zero points on the board and still three road games away from their long-awaited home opener at Princess Auto Stadium, Darlington has an opportunity to lay claim to the number one position and, potentially, keep ahold of it even when Jonathan Viscosci returns to fitness.

“They trust me in that position, and Phil trusts me to step up – so I’m excited to get to it,” he says from his hotel room.

Atletico Ottawa Ruben Del Campo Darlington Murasiranwa
Photo Credit: Matt Zambonin

From what Murasiranwa says, the team has bounced back from the lopsided cup loss strongly. There’s a strong element of trust in the locker room, and one of hunger too.

“It’s the same mission: nothing has changed. They all want to fight and we want to perform at our best. I feel like that’s a very healthy thing, and a very healthy place to be in a dressing room.”

Given how many new faces came in after their last-placed finish in 2023, they appear to be showing strong resolve in the face of great adversity – something that’s never a guarantee after so much change.

For now, the Valour defensive line is still finding its footing: full-back Themi Antonoglou has looked a bright spark on the left flank, coming in hot from Toronto FC and proving potent with his crosses. Abdou Samake and newcomer Haris Chantzopoulos have gotten most minutes in the middle, while ‘primary target’ Tass Mourdoukoutas finally made his club debut off the bench last game and Frankie Facchineri is finding his rhythm. The pieces are fitting together at long last.

“Even in training, I can feel the hunger. They always want to improve, every single day – and it pushes me too, I always want to be better than I was yesterday,” adds Murasiranwa, who doesn’t take his time in the pro ranks for granted.

FC London Darlington Murasiranwa
Photo Credit: Martin Bazyl / League1 Ontario

At this point of the season last year, Darlington had dropped out of that pro game entirely: after FC Edmonton folded, he landed in League1 Ontario with FC London, a side led by former Cavalry analyst Yiannis Tsalatsidis. The experience was a learning one for the goalkeeper, and it helped reshape his mentality in the game.

“It’s growing in leaps,” he observes of the provincial league. “There’s a lot of players in the league who are hungry and want to take that next step. It was a learning environment, and I’m very thankful I was in it with London.”

When he dropped into the level, he says he was still thinking ahead to where his career might go next. Under the tutelage of Yiannis, he as able to live more in the present and learn from those moments, too. While it was a tough season there, his performances saw him called back up to the pro ranks with Valour that fall, while some other members of the League1 Ontario side secured moves abroad – like another former Eddie in Kelsey Egwu.

Even after that move, there was no guarantee Darlington would be where he is now. He arrived with a club option for 2024, making two appearances and impressing Phillip Dos Santos enough to stay on the team through an offseason that saw most of Valour’s roster cut.

“It wasn’t a hunger of needing to prove that I deserve in this league, it was more the hunger of I’m here once again and I want to grow as a goalkeeper,” says Murasiranwa, who pushed himself hard in training to go the extra mile, whether it was asked for or not.

FC Edmonton Darling Murasiranwa 2022
Photo Credit: Canadian Premier League

There’s no room to get comfortable, even in professional ranks. Murasiranwa is a living example with that, as his time in the CPL has seen him with fairly turbulent sides. Born in Zimbabwe but growing up in Edmonton, he turned professional with his hometown team just two years before they folded.

“FC Opportunity,” he reflects, referring to the nickname former Eddies coach Alan Koch had given the club in its last season. “Alan, he gave everyone an opportunity to shine and believe in themselves. It shaped me in a way where I got a couple of games and I started believing that I could do this, too.”

That belief has now carried him a long way, and he’ll march into the proverbial Lions Den tonight full of it. For Valour, the only direction is up – one game at a time, and focusing on the little wins in the moment. It’s a long haul season. Three more games to go, and then home beckons.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *