Valour FC bolstered its goalkeeping ranks last Friday with the announcement they have signed James Pantemis on loan from the Montreal Impact. Pantemis, 23, spent the last three years with the Impact after coming through the team’s U-18 squad and making two appearances for its USL club, FC Montreal. Pantemis also earned a Canadian Championship winner’s medal in 2019 as a member of the Impact’s winning squad. The Montreal-born goalkeeper, who has yet to make a senior appearance for the Impact, also trained with Italian club Bologna FC in 2017. Here are five things you need to know about the Valour newcomer. RELATED READING: CPL pre-season roster tracker: How each team is shaping up
1. Son of a 'keeper

A 23-year-old product of Kirkland, Quebec, Pantemis began playing his youth soccer at age four with Pierrefonds and Lakeshore in Montreal. He speaks English, French and Greek and also played hockey – a goalie, of course – as a youngster before studying international business at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal. His father Nick was also a goalkeeper. "My father wasn’t a professional, but he would take me to the park when I was little when he played his games," Pantemis said. "We also had little training sessions in our basement and it always stuck with me that I wanted to be a keeper."
2. From the Impact, to making an impact?

Pantemis has been a part of the Impact Academy since 2014. He played two years with the U-18 team, then with FC Montreal in the USL in 2016 and signed with the MLS squad in November of 2013. He has also had a couple of training stints with Bologna FC 1909. His first match with the Impact came in last year’s Canadian Championship in a 1-0 win over York9 FC. He was also in the net when Montreal beat Calvary FC in the next round of the championship. In the victory over York – played at Saputo Stadium in Montreal – Pantemis had over 120 family and friends in attendance. He remains very much in the Impact’s plans and they hope the consistent workload with Valour FC can help him further develop. "I know in talking to (the Impact) they believe he has the ability to be their No. 1," Valour coach Rob Gale said. "He’s just younger than the more-experienced goalie in front of him. This season he might be considered their No. 2 but unless you go out and get games you might sit there as the No. 2 and just play two games all season. That’s a great gig for an old goalie… you get the best seat in the house for all the games, sitting on the bench watching. But in terms of wanting to play and needing to play, a guy like James needs to develop himself."
3. The Valour connection

Gale and Pantemis have worked together before, with both the Canadian U-16, U-18 and U-20 teams. He would likely have been Canada’s starting keeper in the FIFA U-20 World Cup qualifying during that stage but suffered a knee injury. "He got injured about eight months before qualifying, a real bad (knee injury)," Gale said. "I stayed in constant contact with him to see how he was doing mentally and physically and went to visit him in Quebec to check to see how he was doing with his rehab. "He was very close to getting back, probably about a month shy of him getting back to the national stage, in the U-20 World Cup qualifying. It was a long road for him, but that forged our relationship because we stayed in touch and it wasn’t a case of out of sight, out of mind. We wanted to make sure he still felt a part of the program." RELATED READING: Valour loan move sets James Pantemis on similar path to Marco Carducci
4. The Valour connection, part 2

Pantemis also considers Michael Petrasso and Louis Beland-Goyette – both of whom played for Valour FC last season – as friends and knows both Raphael Garcia and Yohan Le Bourhis from the Impact Academy. But it’s the connection with Gale that played a major role in his decision to come to Winnipeg. "Rob and I shared a few years together with the youth national team, from the U-16 level up until the Under-20s," Pantemis said. "I really enjoyed every time I was in camp with him because he had a good work ethic for the group, his plans were very clear and his leadership was great for the team. We were on the same page back then and I’m looking forward to him starting up this season."
5. For Valour and country

Nothing is set in stone, but there is an expectation Pantemis might be the starting 'keeper for Canada in the qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a member of the U-23 national team. Just FYI, Canada faces El Salvador on March 21, Haiti on March 24 and Honduras on March 27. That group’s top two clubs will then advance to the Concacaf semifinals against either Mexico, United States, Costa Rica or Dominican Republic on March 30. Only the winners of the semifinals will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and advance to the confederation final on April 1. Some good work in that event, followed by a full season with Valour, will certainly help him in his quest to play for the Canadian men’s national team. "We have a good pool of keepers right now, five-six that are in the mix for the upcoming World Cup qualification and the World Cup that is coming to Canada in 2026," Pantemis said. "For me to get that chance to play, I need to be playing with my club. Hopefully Winnipeg is the solution for that and I also have the Under-23 Olympic qualifying coming up."

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