Whatever it takes to win
Valour FC a club on a mission
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With 11 matches left in the regular season and a shot at the playoffs well within reach, Winnipeg Valour FC’s season hinges on three words: whatever it takes.
The club currently sits six points back of Atletico Ottawa for the Canadian Premier League’s (CPL) fourth and final playoff spot. They’re also only eight points back of Cavalry FC — who they beat 2-0 Wednesday — for third place on the CPL table.
Valour has hit its stride at the right time with six of their final 11 regular season matches — including a tilt with York United FC Sunday afternoon — taking place at IG Field.
Matteo de Brienne (right) is a good example of the depth in the Valour FC lineup.
“It’s in our hands because we won’t be on the road as much,” said defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste following the team’s practice Friday morning. “I feel like the first half of the season being on the road, quite a bit, I think we managed it pretty well, with the exception of a few results that we know we could have come away with.”
Earlier this season Valour battled the injury bug and had limited players available to them off the bench, but now they’re able to flex their depth. Only 11 players start a match, not everyone is guaranteed to play and Jean-Baptiste said part of the club’s culture is that everyone buys into their role.
“Even for myself, if I have to step down because someone else has been performing well, for the greater good of the team, that will be done,” he said. “A lot of guys have grasped the idea that if I have to go out there and put my heart out there for 60 minutes and get substituted out, the next guy will come in there and put his heart out for the team.”
One of the best examples of the club’s depth as of late is forward Matteo de Brienne. The 20-year-old out of Carleton University in Ottawa has dazzled on the pitch in Valour’s last two matches.
De Brienne made the most out of his first start of the year July 30 against Pacific FC, scoring the club’s lone goal of the match. He was hard to miss again as a starter in Valour’s match against Cavalry Aug. 3, and has been dsecribed as a player who will put his head where others put their foot.
“Midseason would be when I start getting myself more involved with the squad, I said that from day one,” said de Brienne. “And now that it’s kind of happened, it’s just a surreal opportunity, especially to be playing in such a beautiful stadium like this. With the fans we have as well, it’s just, it’s incredible.”
Winnipeg’s push toward a playoff spot continues Sunday afternoon at IG Field when York United rolls into town. Valour is 2-0 against the Ontario outfit this season, but head coach Phillip Dos Santos said they’ll be facing a new version of the club come Sunday.
“They’ve signed a couple new kids that are finding space in the team so, it’s a very different version of the team,” he said. “We’re playing a very different team than the one we played when we beat them here 1-0 and then the win in York, 3-1.”
More important than its depth and strength of schedule is finding ways to win games. Valour sits at six wins, five draws and six losses with only three victories in eight matches at IG Field so far this season.
“We need to find ways to win games and it’s whatever it takes mode,” said Dos Santos. “Playing well, not playing well, we need to find ways.”
Jean-Baptiste echoed the sentiment of his coach, adding that just because they’ve beaten York before doesn’t mean they’re entitled to beat them again. He said they’ll need to enforce a strong game plan and limit any errors to pull out a win, secure three points and get one step closer to a playoff spot.
The star defender also said any team is capable of beating their opponent in the CPL reardgless of where they are in the standings and that they can’t get complacent heading into the match.
“It’s up to us now to go out there and put in the work and make sure we leave with as maximum points as possible to make playoffs a possibility,” said Jean-Baptiste.