Valour FC’s roster 2024 makeover has been an ongoing project for Phillip Dos Santos & Co. since last fall. And another potentially key cog has been added with training camp fast approaching.
The club has announced the signing of 22-year-old former Toronto FC prospect Themi Antonoglou, who made 13 MLS appearances for the club over 2022-23 before his contract was not renewed for this year.
That’s when Valour FC swooped in to add the Toronto product to a lineup that has already undergone significant change since last year.
“We followed Themi since the end of the season he had with TFC and knew he was one of those players who was coming out of contract with their MLS team,” said Dos Santos in conversation with valourfootball.club. “He weighed his options to see if there might be anything coming with the re-entry draft, and we were patient. With the loss of Matteo de Brienne (to Atlético Ottawa), it was a position we needed to fill. We have Jordan (Haynes) who has been working extremely hard since the end of last season, but felt it was good to add another piece at the left back position.
“We get a young man who has played 13 games with the MLS side and has grown in a very good academy context, so he’s extremely cultured tactically. He’s good on the ball, he’s a natural left footed player. These kinds of players don’t become available often.”
Valour’s first on-field training session will go February 20th and the roster may still see some change between now and the first time the players step onto the pitch at Winnipeg Soccer Federation South.
Antonoglou joins a collection of new faces that includes defenders Charalampos (Haris) Chantzopoulos, Tass Mourdoukoutas, Roberto Alarcón and 2023 CPL-USports second-round pick Gianfranco Facchineri, midfielders Jordan Faria and Zach Sukunda, forwards Shaan Hundal, Jordan Swibel and first-overall draft pick Owen Sheppard.
Those changes come amid the departures of familiar faces in these parts like De Brienne, Diego Gutierrez, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Pacifigue Niyongabire, Walter Ponce and others.
“We’re excited. Every new season is exciting,” said Dos Santos. “It’s a new opportunity and when you hit what we hit last year… I don’t feel the need to go back to it, but from here it’s an opportunity to look ahead.
“We don’t want to do better than last year because that’s easy. We want to surprise people and be right up there with the best. When you’re facing a challenge like that in any sport, it’s exciting. That, for us, is the goal. That’s what the guys who are coming in understand and accept and that’s why they’re here with us today.”
Dos Santos said the club is still on the hunt for a couple of attacking pieces and has a U-21 spot yet to fill. There’s still some calendar left before the opening of camp, but the Valour coaching staff is also tempted to be patient and see what they already have in-house before rushing to add to the roster ASAP.
“We’re feeling good about where the roster is at this moment,” Dos Santos said. “When we talk about the attacking pieces you look at Jordan Faria, Kian Willams, Shaan Hundal, Jordie Swibel. You look at the wide areas where a guy like Zach Sukunda could fill in, our draft pick Owen Sheppard. It’s shaping up.
“We have a bit of cap space and the roster spot. I’ve always said I’d prefer to keep the spot and the cap space than to sign wrong. That situation could go right into camp or even right into the summer transfer window. Right now, there’s a few things we’re assessing. We’re not done our shopping, but we’re very comfortable with where we are starting preseason.
“We’re looking at doing an evaluation of where the roster is and maybe have a little bit of flexibility to move after. But these things are very fluid. If the season were to start tomorrow, we’re already in a space where we would feel comfortable. You’re always looking when you have a chance to improve your roster, but we’re patient right now.
“On paper, we’re happy with what we have but how it now all comes together is most important.”