There was a safer road for Kian Williams to travel, one with certainly less risk professionally and with more comfort and familiarity.
The 22-year-old Valour FC forward could have easily stayed in Iceland where he had spent the better part of four seasons, most recently with Keflavik after helping the squad earn a promotion to the top division.
Yet the Leicester, England product wanted to push himself further and with his friend Ollie Bassett tearing up the Canadian Premier League with Atlético Ottawa, Williams turned his gaze to North American and, more specifically, Winnipeg.
His first impressions – of Canada, Winnipeg and the CPL – are all good, especially as he has now scored twice for Valour FC in the last three matches, while also adding an assist.
“There’s been a lot of travel, which I was expecting. But I didn’t think it was going to be this much,” said Williams with a grin during a chat with valourfootball.club. “It’s great to see the different parts of Canada I already have. It’s a beautiful country.
“But, coming here, I wanted a new challenge. I saw Ollie do well in Ottawa and I wanted to prove myself as well. The challenge part fires me up every game to try and help the team win through goals and assists. Hopefully we can stay up there near the top. We’re all quite determined to get that.”
Valour is home at IG Field Saturday for a 4 p.m. matchup against perennial CPL powerhouse Pacific FC. Williams scored in last week’s 3-2 loss against defending champion Forge FC, a match in which Valour was solid except for three critical moments – all of them ending up in the back of their net.
“We have to believe in ourselves,” said Valour GM and head coach Phillip Dos Santos. “We’ve been good in many moments in the season. I actually think our game against Forge was a solid performance apart from the moments we didn’t manage well. So, how can we minimize those mistakes and stay in the game for 90 minutes? It’s going to be a hard-fought battle; I have no doubt about that.
“I do believe there’s a lot of margins to progress. You assess the real potential of a team when you have everyone available to play or the majority. We’re close to getting over that spell of bad luck, so hopefully it keeps going like that where guys are recovering, and nobody is falling. Overall, I think there is still a second gear — or third or fourth – for this team. We’re far from the final product and that’s exciting for me because we’re still going to grow as a team and the signs have been encouraging. There’s been a courage, a fight this team has shown through five games that has been consistent. Those are signs as a coach and a manager that you like to see.”
Williams’ play is representative of that overall team growth. It hasn’t taken him long to find his footing in the CPL, even if he was pressing to notch his first goal.
“I always knew that I had ability but, of course, as an attacker you want to be getting goals and assists and contributing to the team in that sense,” he said. “This is only the start and hopefully there is more to come.
“It can be a bit frustrating if you’re not scoring – especially if your teammates start with ‘When is the goal coming?’ Sometimes you go through spells where you don’t score for many games and then they’ll just come in flurries. Obviously, it’s nice to score early in the season and I want to continue with that, but maybe there will be a point where the goals dry up. It’s important to always stay level-headed and always know who you are as a player and your abilities.
“That’s been a big one for me over the years.”
The early-season production of Williams — along with Pacifique Niyongabire and Anthony Novak – has certainly helped answer the concerns swirling around Valour when the season started following the departures of Moses Dyer and Sean Rea.
And there’s a very real sense the trio has more to give.
“Kian is a player who needed that break,” said Dos Santos. “He was getting a little big impatient with not being able to get on the scoreline. I told him it would come.
“He’s a player that, first and foremost, his work ethic in training and in the games is incredible. He’s a guy that gives 100 percent in every moment, every action. You look at how he connects with the team, even in the defensive phase. I like to see guys who do that rewarded with points, with assists and goals. We knew what Kian was about from Day 1 and just how good he could be. He’s been growing in the games and hopefully it keeps going. He understands the game. For us it’s about helping him understand his role in the game and how to grow in it.”
-Dos Santos said the club hopes to have right back Andy Baquero back soon, while veteran midfielder Marcello Polisi is inching closer to a return.
-Versatile midfielder Dante Campbell, who played fullback last week, will not be available as he serves suspension after picking up his fourth yellow card of the season last week.