Michael Petrasso hasn’t been back in Valour FC’s lineup for long, but he’s already back to producing goals.
After missing eight weeks due to a groin injury, Petrasso returned to the field on July 31 against Pacific FC. On Saturday, he scored his first goal of the Canadian Premier League’s fall campaign — helping his team seal a 2-0 victory over York9 FC.
The win was a long time coming for Valour. It took them a dozen games to finally get things right; prior to Saturday’s win, the team had lost its 11 previous matches.
The win was a big relief for Petrasso and his teammates, especially while in enemy territory.
"We came out to York, and against the odds with a couple suspensions and everything, we went there and showed that we’re capable of getting results. A 2-0 win away from home is a good result and big win for us, just to push us up the table into the middle of the pack and hopefully we can push forward from here," Petrasso said.
Valour has pretty much always been in seventh and last place in CPL standings since beginning their 11-game losing streak in June. The losses are split between the spring season, where they finished last, and the current fall season.
The win on Saturday definitely gave Valour a boost of confidence. With a 1-2-3 record, they moved ahead of Pacific FC (1-4-1) to secure sixth place. If Valour were to win to their next game, it’d be the first time this year they’ve strung together back-to-back wins.
Petrasso said it’s time for something like that to happen. At times, Petrasso said it seems other CPL teams have counted Valour out.
"Especially at home, in games that we should win and we’re getting draws, draws late in the game. We’re just kind of keeping ourselves there and pushing. I feel like teams coming up against us, they think ‘we’re going to win today.’ When you feel that on your back, it’s a bit hard. But we pushed through that barrier and we showed that we can win," Petrasso said.
It wasn’t easy for the 24-year-old midfielder to watch as his team struggled over the past two months. Nursing his injured groin back to health took a long time, multiple visits to doctors and a lot of mental stamina.
"Mentally, it was a long timeout. It’s hard to just keep watching and watching when you just want to participate. But, obviously, being back now and playing the past couple games, helping the team get a good result on the weekend — hopefully I can continue playing and help the team some more."
Head coach Rob Gale is hopeful the taste of victory his team enjoyed on Saturday is something it’ll continue to fight for.
"The sun is shining a little brighter, a load has been taken off some of the guys’ minds. But that’s just three points, right? You’ve got to turn it into the next and remember that feeling. Some of the adversity they’ve had to be through, and the fact that we were six players down and still went away on the road and done that and had the youngsters stepping up — lots of positives," Gale said.
One of the youngsters who stepped up was Yohan Le Bourhis, a 19-year-old centre back signed to Valour on Friday. Le Bourhis was coming back from injury and just missed out on an opportunity to sign with Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact, who would’ve most likely loaned him out to a top-level team in France.
Gale hopped on the opportunity to sign Le Bourhis, and was impressed with his play in Saturday’s game, which happened to be his first professional start.
"He’s a young, talented player. He’s got good size, he likes to defend and he’s happy to step in and use the ball as well," Gale said.
Le Bourhis will help fill the defensive gap left by former captain Jordan Murrell, who will begin a league-imposed six-game suspension on Saturday following inappropriate antics in a game against the HFX Wanderers last week.
Looking ahead, Gale is hopeful Valour can pull off a win at home this weekend.
On Saturday, Valour will face Hamilton’s Forge FC at IG Field beginning at 5 p.m.
"Everybody is excited now, you know? Everybody wants to be part of playing on a winning side, we all want to keep on pushing and get some more results," Gale said.