“We’ve just got to go out there, give a good performance and leave everything on the field.” | Match Preview

William Akio boarded a plane headed for Calgary on Friday along with his Valour FC teammates, all still chasing the same goal they had when the Canadian Premier League season opened.

Valour plays Cavalry FC in a Saturday matinee with their playoff hopes still alive, but hanging in the balance. Yet, no matter how the match turns out – whether Valour gets points to stay alive or their chances are snuffed out – Akio will soon complete his first season as a professional knowing he’s experienced just about every emotion and every scenario imaginable.

There have been incredible highs, like scoring his first goal or Valour being atop the CPL standings after the ‘Kickoff’ bubble at IG Field to open the year, to long losing streaks and GM and head coach Rob Gale – the man who helped bring him to Winnipeg – being relieved of his duties midseason.

“There’s been so much this year,” began Akio in a chat with “Honestly, coming into the professional game I didn’t expect to play as many minutes as I have. I didn’t expect our coach to be leaving us midseason. It’s been a roller-coaster.

“But I also told myself to learn from every situation. All the negatives and the downs we’ve been through this season I’ve analyzed it and took away positives from them and things I can grow from having been through them.

“I feel like I’m learning a lot and I’m doing better as a player and scoring some goals to help contribute to the team. I want to finish this off as well as possible.”

William Akio (19)-

Akio’s rookie season has, in many ways, mirrored that of his club. Exceptionally gifted in the speed department, he’s used that skill to score some spectacular goals – some that must be in consideration for CPL goal of the year. There have also been stretches where the team struggled to find the back of the net or any consistency in their game.

That’s all lead to where Valour is right now: three points out of the fourth and final playoff spot with just two matches remaining and two clubs, HFX Wanderers and York United FC, they must climb over to secure a postseason berth.

“It’s quite different from college,” said Akio, who spent the previous four years at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “I just kept my eyes opened and tried to learn something from everyone on the team. Confidence is a big thing, too; you can’t be coming in feeling shy or smaller than anyone else. You have to learn to act like a professional and it can be very demanding. That’s one thing I realized – even on your days off you have to make sure you’re doing the right things.

“It’s very demanding. It’s not as nice and lovely as some might make it sound. It’s tricky sometimes and you’ve just got to stay positive and work hard.

“The other thing is it brings out the emotions. I’ve never felt the emotions that soccer gives me anywhere else. One day you’re feeling amazing and then the next day you’re feeling super-down. There’s a roller-coaster of emotions and you’ve got to find a way to control it.

“But it’s also helped me realize how much I love the game and how much passion I have for the game.”

Akio scored his sixth goal of the season in last Tuesday’s 3-0 win over HFX Wanderers, tying him for the team lead with Moses Dyer. He’s also played 1,634 minutes in his rookie campaign.

William Akio (19)- Rafael Galhardo (42)-

“I’m happy,” he said. “I write down goals before every season and I had a goal of getting close to 10 goals. I’m happy that I’m at six and helping the team.”

Akio said the team’s morale is up in the wake of the win over Wanderers that kept their playoff hopes alive. There was also a freedom that came from playing in that game knowing where they stand and the hope is they can replicate that against Cavalry.
“Freedom… that’s exactly what it is,” he said.” Against Halifax the other night we had nothing to lose. We’ve just got to go out there and play with a free mind and with that attitude: that’s there’s nothing to lose. We just want to take it game by game… we’ve got Halifax out of the way with the three points and now it’s going into Saturday against Cavalry with the same mindset, same attitude. We’ve got to come out hungry because this could potentially our last opportunity to fight for the playoffs.

“We’re just going to give it our all. The spirits are high and everyone is feeling positive. We’ve just got to go out there, give a good performance and leave everything on the field.”