“That’s what Shaan is here for – he’s here to score goals.”

There are so many kilometres yet to travel for Valour FC, both literally and figuratively, over the next few months.

That said, three days into training camp the early returns on Shaan Hundal are succinct and straightforward: the veteran forward has come exactly as advertised as a finisher.

And for a club that finished last in goals in the Canadian Premier League a year ago, even filling the net as he has done in three practice sessions can provide some comfort.

“It’s still training, yes, but as a coach you always want to see your forwards scoring and he does it,” said Valour GM and head coach Phillip Dos Santos after Day 3 of camp at WSF North. “That’s what Shaan is here for – he’s here to score goals.

“Look, it’s clear for us, we want our centre forward or our front line to be the first line to defend when we don’t have the ball and committed to how we want to defend from the front and lead the press.

“But at the end of the day he’s going to be evaluated by his offensive contributions and his goals. We know that. He knows that.”

Hundal returned to the CPL last season with expansion Vancouver FC after making six appearances for Valour during the 2020 Island Games and then signing with Inter Miami FC II where he scored 17 goals in 48 matches.

He scored the first goal in Vancouver franchise history last spring and was among the league’s most prolific scorers early in the year with five of his six tallies coming in the first nine matches before he was switched to the wing. He scored only once after that, but still finished just five back of Cavalry’s Myer Bevan and Atlético Ottawa’s Ollie Bassett, who tied for the CPL’s Golden Boot with 11 goals.

Indeed, the Hundal that returns to Valour after the brief stint at the Island Games is older, wiser, and more technically sound.

“I’m a smarter player now,” he told this week. “I can find spaces well and I’m more consistent when it comes to being in front of the net. Last year I had a decent half of the season until I started playing on the wing. That’s why I’m excited here, because I get to play my position and show what I’m capable of through 28 games as long as I stay healthy.

“I’m loving it so far. The energy is good. It sure doesn’t feel like everyone is new. I feel like everyone has been here a long time already. Even our first day on the field it was pretty sharp. I already feel like it could be a special year.”

Hundal’s frustrations in the second half of last season on the west coast led to his departure and his quest for a fresh start. He’s a key figure in a Valour squad that has undergone a significant makeover since last season, with 16 players who made appearances for the club now gone.

“This feels right,” Hundal said. “I have a coach that believes in me and teammates that believe we can go all the way and win the league. I really believe something special is building here and Valour fans can finally get what they’ve been waiting for. Everyone is focussed on doing that.

“Coming from Vancouver last year… it was a first-year team with a bunch of new pros. This is completely different. There are experienced pros here who have good resumés and know what it takes. I’m not saying at all the guys in Vancouver didn’t, but we’ve got a lot of guys here who have been three-four-five-year pros elsewhere, including in this league.

“It’s good having so many guys on this team who know what to expect from this league.”

Valour had been trying to bring Hundal back to Winnipeg for a couple of seasons and most recently dating back to last summer when they were aware of his frustrations with his move to the wing in Vancouver and attempted to swing a deal to land him. His goal-scoring contributions will clearly be critical this season but so, too, will be the edge he has to his game and his passion to be a part of the rebuild here.

“I’m going to be motivated all year,” said Hundal. “The main thing is for all of us being motivated, even the young guys coming up. If they miss a pass, I don’t get mad. But if they stop working… it’s simple, if we all keep working, everyone will be happy.”