They are older and wiser and, on paper, have addressed their most glaring area in need of repair by shoring up their roster defensively.
Yes, bringing aboard quality talent like goalkeeper James Pantemis and experienced defenders in Arnold Bouka Moutou and Andrew Jean-Baptiste should go a long way in cutting down the goals against.
But as Valour FC continues training for what they hope will be an abridged 2020 Canadian Premier League season, one question remains: which players will step up to provide the bulk of the scoring?
Consider that last year’s three leading goal scorers have all vamoosed in Marco Bustos (Pacific, seven goals), Michael Petrasso (York9, six goals) and Tyler Attardo (transferred to Chilean club, expected to sign in Europe, six goals).
That’s a whole lot of finish having exited.
Still, Valour GM and head coach Rob Gale believes he and his staff have added some intriguing new pieces who can score in Fraser Aird, Austin Ricci, Moses Dyer, Brett Levis, Masta Kacher, Shaan Hundal (still officially on trial), Daryl Fordyce, and youngster Solomon Kojo Antwi.
“We feel that there are good options,” said Gale. “We feel that by committee we have different ways to score. Fraser, Brett, Moses, Masta, Dylan (Carreiro, returning from last year), Austin, Shaan, Daryl, Solomon… all, for different reasons, are goal-scoring threats in different ways.
“The challenge now is to find the best way for the opponent and the right time and hope it comes together. But we like the options at our disposal.”
Valour finished fifth of seven clubs in the CPL’s inaugural season in goals scored, but was also dead last in goals surrendered. Their -22 goals for/against differential was also a league worst and dramatically affected by an 8-nil loss to Cavalry FC on Labour Day.
One of the criticisms of Valour’s play in 2019 often centred around their play in and around the box. There was enormous creativity, but not enough shots, let alone finish. In nine of the team’s 28 matches last season they were held off the scoreboard and in 12 other contests the team was held to just one goal. Over those 21 matches, the team finished with just two wins, three draws and 16 losses
“We have more players likely to shoot, which is always a better way to get scoring,” said Gale. “Last year we tended to over-play at times and tried to find the perfect pass to combine our way to a goal.
“We feel like we might find a bit more cutting edge this year.”
While every team is forever in pursuit of an elite goal-scorer, Gale is hopeful his scoring-by-committee squad might be more difficult to defend – especially in a tournament-style format the CPL is most likely to adopt if there are matches in 2020.
“You don’t want to be a one-trick pony in case of injury,” he said. “And in tournament football the opposition can find ways to stifle you. But I feel like we have a number of players who, if we challenge them, can get in and around double-digit goals – or the equivalent of that in a shortened season. That’s encouraging. You just hope you can avoid injury, have some good luck and confidence and that all comes together at the right time.
“As I said, last year we had a lot of technical players who wanted to combine and… almost score the perfect goal. Some of the football we played, some of the goals we scored were spectacular.
“But with Moses, Fraser, Brett, Darryl… those guys are likely to shoot more. Then the opposition has to respect that and the defence has to get a bit tighter. People knew last year we were over-playing and then just sit off a little more off us because we were less likely to shoot.”