It is a farewell and a finale at the same time. And while Valour FC is well behind the leaders as the finish line to its Canadian Premier League season nears, the club has one more opportunity to make a favourable last impression.
And that would be to their fans, their management and to anyone else watching.
“We already know there’s been a lot on the line lately and there’s still so much to play for – our own pride, for the city and for the fans,” said Valour attacker Matteo de Brienne as Valour prepared for its final match of the season against HFX Wanderers at IG Field on Friday. “This is going to be a really big game for us to round off the season and put an exclamation point on it.
“It’s our job. It’s another day, but as professionals we need to make sure we’re always in the mindset to be better. As mom used to say, ‘You never know who’s watching so do your best and leave it out there.’”
There’s no other way to frame it but to say Valour’s 2023 campaign has been a disappointment. The club enters Friday with six wins and eight draws against 13 losses, with the 26 points earned last in the CPL standings.
Injuries have tested this team’s depth all season, but a team that has struggled to score and handled critical moments so inconsistently for most of the year is certainly going to be facing a makeover in the winter.
“That’s the life of a professional footballer – any pro athlete, to be honest,” said de Brienne. “I will say this year we bonded to form a brotherhood. It will be different next season seeing new faces and having to adapt, but that’s the name of the game.
“The easiest way for me to try and explain this season is that it’s been a roller-coaster ride. I know that’s a term that’s been used a lot, but we had points this year where we were at a really good high and then there were some lows where we needed to find ourselves and regroup.
“Unfortunately, the ride is about to come to an end, and we need to make sure we can finish and entertain the people enough that they still want to come back next season.
“We’re going to have one last run together as a family.”
De Brienne has had solid second season with Valour, playing both left back and on the wing — so much so that he has reportedly drawn some MLS interest while having his name floated in the CPL U-21 Canadian of the Year Award discussion.
Still, what is immediately ahead is what matters most.
“The only way I can look all this is once I get one job done, maybe then I’ll look at the next,” he said. “At the moment I’m just trying to focus on Friday and making sure I perform well in training. Once that game is finished then I can look at what be next in my career.
“This year has been a positive experience and a good stepping stone for me, going from starting 10 of 28 games last year to the honour of having Phil (Dos Santos, GM and head coach) use me as much as he has this season.”
De Brienne is one of the players Dos Santos & Co. would obviously have return in 2024. That said, the team’s record and missing the playoffs again will mean significant change. Again, though, while the evaluations are constant, the official post-mortem won’t come until next week.
“It’s our last home match in front of our fans and we feel that we owe them something this year. I don’t think it’s been good enough at home,” said Dos Santos. “So, I want the guys to enjoy this game with the objective to win and reward the fans.
“At the same time, we still want to see how the guys handle this moment of adversity and find the motivation to compete, to fight for every ball and get the points. Nothing in that respect has changed. Our week of training has been the same, the preparation has been the same.
“None of these players have reached the top yet – that’s the reality. So, it’s fight for your career and make sure that you can sustain and that next year you have a chance to be playing in the league or have another professional contract. It’s year by year. Many players understand that and so they don’t take opportunities like these for granted.”