The critical next step in Valour FC’s team building will come west of here on British Columbia soil.
Winnipeg’s Canadian Premier League squad will be wheels up to the West Coast Wednesday afternoon for a week of outdoor training, team bonding, and a pair of preseason contests against Vancouver FC and Pacific FC in Victoria.
“There’s a multitude of benefits,” said defender Abdou Samake of the upcoming trip. “It’s to build chemistry, of course, in being around the guys for eight days in the hotel. You are living with these guys, so you get to know them.
“Also, just changing environments is refreshing before the season, including getting to train outside. It just keeps things new. It’s also about testing ourselves against other good teams in the league and see how we look against real opponents. Competing every day against your teammates and not real opposition, you can start falling into bad habits and it can get a bit monotonous. With the pressure of a real game, you really see where you stand.”
Valour will return to Winnipeg on March 22nd and then have 10 training days at home before a final preseason match on April 3rd in Calgary against Cavalry FC.
The club will open the CPL regular season on April 16th in Toronto against York United FC, then travels back west to face TSS Rovers in the opening round of the Canadian Championship before the home opener on April 22nd at IG Field vs. Atlético Ottawa.
And so, with three weeks of preseason in the rear-view mirror and just over a month until the opener, Valour GM and head coach Phillip Dos Santos and his staff still have some items to cross off their to-do list.
“This trip is us finally getting some competition and seeing about what we’ve put on the field for the last three or four weeks and how it comes together in a competitive setting,” Dos Santos said.
“Also, even though we’re here every day going on the trip together and spending more hours together than we do at home can solidify the group. It’s a little bit of everything, to also get out of the indoor setting and be outside. It’s essential.
“It’s an opportunity for us as coaches, too. We have more time with them. We can hold more meetings with them and individualize the video sessions a little bit more. There’s a good opportunity for us to fill that time with the acquisition of certain principles, but also just getting to know the guys a bit better. That’s important for the coaching staff as well.”
Every team needs to build chemistry, whether it is returning a chunk of its core or has undergone some significant change. Count Valour somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
“The best teams are always great teams with great cores,” Samake said. “You need to know the guy beside you is going to fight for you and you’re willing to do the same. Trips like this, they just make everyone more human – you get to know these guys, everybody’s habits, and there are little jokes.
“The squad is coming together really great. I love the sessions – they are so specific to the way we want to play. It gives us the opportunity, because the preseason is so short compared to the time we had off, to set up. Everything is based on the way we want to play – the way we want to defend, the way we want to attack. The staff has done an amazing job of that because every day you’re building habits in your role and your position. If everybody can do the same, we’ll be good.”
-Valour FC has added a triallist who will accompany the team on the west coach trip. Meet Matt Chandler, a 6-6 centre back and Toronto native who began his NCAA career with St. John’s before transferring to the University of Wisconsin.
A Badgers captain, he started all 21 games for the club in 2022, scoring twice and adding one assist.
-Dos Santos said he’ll take the entire squad to B.C. and expects everyone to be healthy by the time they put cleats on the ground there.