“This is who we’re called to be, to be the best version of ourselves every day as individuals”

All season long Valour FC GM and head coach Phillip Dos Santos has implored his charges to manage the moments better in each match, whether they include a critical tackle against a counterattack or finishing a chance inside the box.

Admittedly, it’s been a struggle this year, with Valour stuck in seventh place in the Canadian Premier League standings and currently 12 points out of a playoff spot with just six matches remaining.

It now could be said the bigger moments for this team are directly ahead, not just for in the here and now, but beyond. Yes, Valour FC will be all out to grab points until the team is mathematically eliminated and right to the 2023 finish line, but how this team looks in 2024 could also be heavily influenced with what happens in the next six matches.

“The evaluation is constant and as you get closer to the end of the season it’s normal that you start wondering what the future could look like,” said Dos Santos in a chat with this week. “But we don’t want to be already into next season. We still have an obligation here to show up and perform and be the best we can be today and for the next game.

“Of course, winning or not, this is the time of year where coaches start having a deeper grasp of who’s who and how it fits in the long-term plan. Every sport is like that when you’re approaching the end of the season.”

Valour finishes a three-match road stretch Friday night in Toronto against York United FC (6 p.m. CDT) having lost three straight. The team’s scoring issues – it has just 18 goals in 22 matches, a league low – remain a problem, but it’s compounded by a long list of injuries that has pushed the team’s U-21 minutes up dramatically.

Critical now, however, is the 90 minutes Friday against York. And the 90 minutes after that until the end of the season.

“I gave them an example today,” Dos Santos said. “I was reading about the two types of law enforcement in Brazil. One is the regular police force. The other is called BOPE (Batalhao de Operacoes Policiais Especiais) that is meant to go into the Brazilian favelas, which is probably one of the most dangerous places to go into in the world when it comes to crime.

“The truth is this: both are paid very similarly, yet what makes one want to be part of that special task force? It’s the way they’re wired. This is a moment for us where the guys who are wired strongly, won’t be brought down by the fact the coach keeps being so demanding and keeps pushing them to their limit as if we were playing for everything.

“That’s why I need to keep being like that; being the same coach I’ve been, that coaches as if we were playing for a final tomorrow. It’s those who can respond to that that I want in this team. For me, it’s simple: I’m not one that’s going to loosen the standards because I’m concerned about how vulnerable a player could be emotionally in light of the situation.

“The lesson is simple,” he added. “We’re still called to do a job and it shouldn’t be dependent on external factors. Today our motivation needs to be to win the next game. There’s no ‘buts’ or ‘ifs.’ It has nothing to do with the situation the team is in today. This is who we’re called to be, to be the best version of ourselves every day as individuals and that’s what I’m challenging the team to do. We need to keep pushing. This is our job.”


-Valour will be without winger Pacifique Niyongabire on Friday, as he has rejoined the Burundi National team for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Cameroon next week.

-The club will have F Anthony Novak and D Jordan Haynes available against York United FC after the two missed last week’s loss to Pacific due to illness.