Jordan Murrell and Glenn Muenkat are coming into this with their collective eyes wide open.
Both men officially signed multi-year deals with Valour FC of the Canadian Premier League on Tuesday, and as with any new venture, there is the excitement of being part of a start-up team in the debut of a professional circuit.
There’s also, of course, a great deal of unknown that comes with leaving their old squads in the United Soccer League and the German 2 Bundesliga for Valour FC and the CPL.
But then, there’s this: when the two new recruits arrive in Winnipeg for training camp in March, there will be a couple of familiar faces awaiting them. Valour FC head coach Rob Gale worked with both men during their days with U-18 national and U-23 Olympic teams, and Murrell is a former college teammate and close friend of Skylar Thomas, the first player signed here in Winnipeg.
“Skylar and I have a close relationship,” began Murrell Tuesday during a conference call with national media. “I was just telling the story the other day – we actually met in Costa Rica at a U-18 national camp. And then we went to college and played all four years together, which was incredible. We’ve grown apart, played at different places. And now to be reunited and to play with one of my close friends is great. The chemistry will be there and we’re looking to improve our talents and our tenacity on the field.”
“I went to two camps with Rob Gale and we have always had a good relationship,” added Muenkat. “It’s always easy to talk to him as a coach. When he talks to you he understands where you’re coming from as a player. That was good for me. He’s always put a lot of confidence in me as a player so I thought working with him again would be the best option for me. So that’s why I signed with Winnipeg.”
Murrell and Muenkat are both examples of why so many in the soccer world believe the CPL can not only survive, but put down permanent roots in this country. They are both Canadians – Murrell was born in London, England but is a Canadian citizen; Muenkat is from Toronto – and both were playing abroad last season.
Now they get the chance to come home.
Murrell, a defender, comes to Valour FC from Reno 1868 FC of the United Soccer League while Muenkat worked in the midfield with Kaiserslautern U-21 of the German 2 Bundesliga.
“They’re both talented and I’ve worked with both of them,” Gale said. “Glenn is an exciting young talent. He’s just turned 20, he got good pace, he’s direct, he’s a winger who can play on either side. He’s going to get the people in the stands on their feet and fired up. He’s dynamic and the fact that an established European side took Glenn from Toronto FC shows the potential quality we are signing.
“Jordan’s a versatile defender. He can play in the back three or back four. He’s a natural left-foot which is a major asset as a defender to have that balance. He and Skylar go back a long time. They’re really good mates and do summer camps together and are always giving back to their communities.”
Murrell and Muenkat both spoke of the excitement of returning to Canada, have heard about Valour FC’s growing fan base and are excited to play at Investors Group Field. But make no mistake, their association with Gale was a major component in their decisions to head to Winnipeg.
“I’ve always enjoyed Rob Gale’s philosophy for the game when I was with him with the national team camps,” said Muenkat. “It’s the way he plays, the way he likes to play… it just suited me. I just thought this would be a great opportunity for me to learn new things, new culture.”
Murrell, who is 25, is hoping Gale’s tutelage and his connections with the national team programs will help him get another crack at wearing Canada’s colours.
“Working with Rob was great. He taught me so many things in just that short span to be able to work on my game and improve,” said Murrell. “So having that connection and that trust going forward is crucial for improving myself, him improving as a coach and having a great team together.
“I’m super excited about having a professional league again in Canada with the Canadian Premier League being a vessel for young Canadian players and players such as myself looking to better their careers and move on to the national team. Playing with the full men’s national team has been a dream of mine and a goal I still have to this day, and day in and day out I’m still training to get there.
“Playing with Valour FC is a privilege and an honour to be with this club. We are going to push day in and day out for a championship. That’s why we’re here.”