The inaugural Canadian Premier League season couldn't have started any better for Valour FC.
On May 1 in Victoria, in what was the club's first ever match, Winnipegger Dylan Carreiro came off the bench and scored in the 78th minute to give Valour a 2-1 win over Pacific FC.
It was a storybook beginning for Winnipeg's newest professional soccer team, but since then, it has mostly been a nightmare.
The CPL's Spring season officially came to a close on Monday, and when all the dust was settled, it was Valour FC sitting at the bottom of the seven-team table with a disappointing 3-7-0 record. Valour found themselves in dead last after losing 3-1 to York9 FC on Monday at IG Field. York9 entered the match with only one goal in their past five games.
But Valour didn't just stink it up in league play, they also did so in the Canadian Championship — a 13-team tournament featuring clubs from five different leagues. A strong run in the event would've put Valour on the map as they had Major League Soccer's Toronto FC on their side of the bracket in the semifinal, but Valour, who had a first round bye, bowed out in the second round to HFX Wanderers FC after losing 4-1 on aggregate.
Fortunately for Valour, they have an opportunity to make up for their dismal Spring. They have the next two weeks off before they begin the CPL's 18-game Fall season. The winner of the Fall will challenge Cavalry FC, the winners of the Spring season, for the inaugural CPL championship. Valour kicks off their Fall campaign on July 17 on the road against FC Edmonton.
But before we officially turn the page on the Spring, here are the five biggest takeaways from the first half of Valour's season.
You don't need a calculator to add up all of Valour's goals from the Spring. In 10 league games, Valour only found the back of the net eight times — the lowest total in the CPL.
English-born striker Stephen Hoyle was expected by many to lead the charge on offence. The 26-year-old was a top player in the ISPS Handa Premiership in New Zealand, where he had 40 goals in his past 84 games, including 10 goals in 17 appearances for Canterbury United this past season. He also won the league's Golden Boot and Supporters Player of the Year award in the 2015-16 season as a member of WaiBOP United. Hoyle scored Valour's first ever goal, as he opened the scoring in their opening match on May 1 against Pacific FC. But since then, he's done a disappearing act, as he’s been in and out of the lineup all season long due to injuries and inconsistent play.
But it's not just Hoyle. 23-year-old attacker Ali Musse from Winnipeg needs to be much better as well. He scored five game-winning goals a year ago with Calgary Foothills FC of the Premier Development League and scored a pair in the team's PDL championship game victory over Reading United. But Musse's clutch gene has been nowhere to be found with Valour, as similar to Hoyle, he also only has one goal this season. Surprisingly, 17-year-old Winnipegger Tyler Attardo is the only player on the squad with more than one goal in league play, as he notched his second goal in the opening minute of Monday's 3-1 loss to York9 FC.
This stat has been mentioned over and over again, but it still rings true: Valour hasn't scored more than one goal in a game since their season opener on May 1. That's unacceptable.
Valour head coach Rob Gale said he wanted to split the starts between Tyson Farago and Mathias Janssens in the Spring, and then roll with more of a traditional full-time starter for the Fall. Well coach Gale, pick your poison, because neither goalie has stood out. Farago, a 28-year-old from Winnipeg, has surrendered 11 goals in his six league appearances to give him a 1-5-0 record. Although to be fair to Farago, several of the goals have come on breakaways at the end of matches with Valour chasing the game. Janssens has shown flashes of being a legit starting goalie, as his first two starts were clean sheets. But since then, the 21-year-old from Belgium has been far from impressive. He gave up two weak goals in the final 10 minutes of Valour’s 2-1 loss to Forge FC on June 16 and he followed that up with another questionable performance five days later in a 2-1 loss to Pacific FC. Janssens has allowed four goals in four league games to go with a 2-2 record. Neither one has proven they deserve to be Valour's go-to option between the pipes, as the team is tied with Pacific for the most goals allowed (15).
Toronto-born midfielder Michael Petrasso is the most talented player on the team. The only problem is he can't stay healthy. Petrasso, who spent last year with the Montreal Impact of the MLS, is the team's most dynamic player with the ball as he has a goal and two assists in four league matches. But a pair of lower-body injuries, one against Cavalry on May 8, and another against the Wanderers on June 13, have kept the star player out of the lineup for majority of the season. Valour isn't the same team without him, as they're 1-5-0 when Petrasso is sidelined. He signed a one-year deal with Valour as he's aiming for a return to the MLS, but if the injuries keep piling up, there's a good chance Petrasso won't be going anywhere. Petrasso is expected to return to the lineup for the Fall season opener on July 17 in Edmonton.
With Petrasso out of the lineup, Marco Bustos has stepped up as the team's most dangerous player on offence. Bustos, who previously played for the Oklahoma City Energy of the USL Championship, returned home to sign with Valour after the first three games of the season. The 23-year-old Winnipegger showed why he's one of the best talents to come out of the city in years when he scored 30 seconds into the match against Forge FC on June 15. Bustos and Petrasso have also only played one CPL game together, which was a 1-0 victory against FC Edmonton on June 2. The idea of both players being on the field together for the Fall should help get this offence on the right track.
If you're looking for a bright spot in Valour's Spring season, it has to be the performances of a pair of Winnipeggers who are getting their first taste of professional soccer. Due to injuries and inconsistent play from some of the more experienced players, Tyler Attardo and Raphael Ohin were given a chance and they've made the most of the opportunity. Attardo, an attacker who recently graduated from River East Collegiate, has generated scoring chances in all five of his appearances and has scored on a header in the last two games at IG Field. Ohin, a 24-year-old who was born in Ghana but moved to Winnipeg three years ago, started the season at the end of the bench. But since Gale finally gave Ohin his chance in the second leg of the Canadian Championship series against Halifax, he’s been a starting midfielder ever since. And it’s well deserved as Ohin is all over the field and easily the team's most energetic player. Out of the eight Winnipeggers playing on Valour, outside of Bustos, these two have been the ones making the most out of playing at home.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.