In the pressure cooker The heat is on Valour FC goalkeeper Sirois to perform

A year ago, Jonathan Sirois was a promising young goaltender with a limited resume.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/03/2022 (186 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A year ago, Jonathan Sirois was a promising young goaltender with a limited resume.

He spent the next six months putting his unique stamp on the 2021 Canadian Premier League season, pitching a shutout in his first start for Valour FC — a 2-0 win over Forge FC — and adding eight more clean sheets on his way to the league’s goalkeeper of the year honours.

He led all CPL goalkeepers in shutouts (nine), saves (94) and played 2,160 minutes — the most of any under-21 player in the league — as Valour FC narrowly missed a top-four finish and a berth in the post-season.

It was a stunning rise for 20-year-old native Montrealer, who was developed at the CF Montreal Academy and loaned to Valour as a 19-year-old.

Jonathan Sirois should be integral to Valour’s chances of reaching the playoffs in 2022. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Now a seasoned pro at 20, Sirois is back for another go-round in Winnipeg with another loan agreement in place.

“I’m no longer just a nobody with no pressure. The club and I think the league, even (CF) Montreal, expects a standard from me and I work hard every day in training to try and maintain that.”

Sirois’ importance should not be understated. After the installation of new head coach Phillip Dos Santos with 10 games remaining, Valour made a desperate dash for the CPL’s final playoff spot and fell just short — one point behind fourth-place York United — and Sirois was heavily involved in the final push.

He should be integral to Valour’s chances of reaching the playoffs in 2022.

“I’m no longer just a nobody with no pressure. The club and I think the league, even (CF) Montreal, expects a standard from me and I work hard every day in training to try and maintain that.” – Jonathan Sirois

“He’s very important,” said veteran attacker Daryl Fordyce. “He got the most clean sheets last year, goalie of the year, he saved us numerous times with really, really top class saves — saves that you see in the Premier League, to be honest. But the thing is, he so level-headed and my opinion, that’s what I think is gonna take him far.”

In due course, Fordyce envisions 6-1 Sirois as a starter for the MLS side in Montreal and even beyond to an elite club in Europe.

“He’s great with his feet, he’s great with his hands,” said Fordyce. “He’s not 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 type goalie but he’s got a great spring on him. And his presence is there. In 10 years time, I look forward to seeing where he is.”

Dos Santos was relieved to get Sirois back but he prefers his young star earns his playing time.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Goalie Jonathan Sirois (right) during Valour FC soccer practice at Winnipeg Soccer Federation South.

“The second year might be even more difficult because expectations are high and we don’t know how he’s gonna deal with that,” said Dos Santos. “And that’s why we made sure that we would have someone that would push him as well. Someone internally like (first round U Sports draft pick Rayane-Yuba Yesli), who’s done an amazing job pushing Jonathan and he’s gonna keep doing it.”

Fordyce, who once played with Alan (Crazyhead) Blayney of Southampton in the Premier League, is accustomed to slightly off-the-wall goalkeepers. Sirois isn’t one of them.

“He’s probably the most level-headed, down-to-earth sane goalies I’ve met,” said Fordyce. “When he does make a mistake, he holds his hand up and he analyzes the mistake and he works on it so he doesn’t make the same mistake again.

“And that’s how he is. Last year he would come in after having an excellent game, good man of the match and he just comes off the pitch as if he’s just had a training session and he’s already speaking with (goalkeeping coach Patrick Di Stefani) about the game and what he can do better.”

Valour went 3-3-4 under Dos Santos’ leadership and the new boss felt it behooved him to retain a number of the existing players.

Now a seasoned pro at 20, Jonathan Sirois is back for another go-round in Winnipeg. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press)

The club has 13 returnees from 2021 and currently has eight newcomers on the training camp roster. During a 10-day pre-season camp earlier this month in Victoria, Valour beat York United 4-0, edged Whitecaps FC2 of the MLS Next Pro League 3-2 before dropping a 1-0 decision to the CPL’s Pacific FC.

“The coach came in midway through the season last year and he started to implement a new identity,” said Sirois. “And now we’re no longer starting from zero. (Based on training camp) in Victoria and the games that we played, we were already very organized and very structured as a team.”

“The coach came in midway through the season last year and he started to implement a new identity,” said Sirois. “And now we’re no longer starting from zero.” – Jonathan Sirois

Dos Santos is very comfortable with the choices he’s made.

“There’s many things that come come in account and I don’t think a house-cleaning was necessary,” he said. “I think that the way I see the success of of clubs, it’s always about the sum of the parts. So sometimes it’s dynamics and you have to make sure that you surround certain guys and you work with certain guys in the way you can maximize their potential.”

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

PREPPING FOR 2022

2021 record: 10 wins, five draws, 13 losses (fifth place, out of playoffs)

2022 pre-season: two wins, one loss

2022 season opener: April 10 at Edmonton FC, 3 p.m.

2022 home opener: May 1 vs. Forge FC, 1:30 p.m.

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