It often starts as a jumbled mess of pieces and the task of shaping it into something even remotely recognizable can be absolutely daunting. Valour FC GM and coach Rob Gale and his staff have been there, done that (see: 2019). Yet, as the club prepares for its second training camp – medicals were Saturday, testing is Sunday, and the first on-field session Monday afternoon - Gale looks at all the names on his roster and his face breaks into a wide grin. "We’re excited," began Gale in a chat with "We haven’t begun pre-season, but the early interactions and seeing the players around the building and those kind of things… we’re in a different space. We like the pieces we’ve brought in a lot. "We’re not assessing who we’re going to be with, we know what we are and what we’re about and that’s why we brought the pieces in that we did. We’re not building the jigsaw without seeing the picture now. We’ve got the picture and we’re building the jigsaw." RELATED READING: Impact loanee Pantemis excited about getting new start with Valour FC Year 2 for Winnipeg’s Canadian Premier League franchise will see significant roster turnover, some coming after the exit of players such as Marco Bustos (Pacific FC), Louis Béland-Goyette (HFX Wanderers) and Michael Petrasso (York9 FC), but much of it is coming from a squad that simply needed change after its inaugural season. Valour FC won just eight games in its first season, tying four and losing 16, and surrendered a league-worst 42 goals. Over the winter Gale spoke repeatedly of adding more mature players – both physically and mentally – in an effort to find a more consistent level of play from spring through to the fall. "We’re ahead in preparations," Gale said. "Last year there were so many things… the equipment wasn’t in, there was the travel schedules. All the unknowns of last year are out of the way and we’re better prepared to prepare a team for the season ahead. "We’ve reflected on what we need to do. Last year more players came in late and so the squad wasn’t almost complete, like it is now. We added Mike (Petrasso), we added Louis (Béland-Goyette), we added (Marco) Bustos… we had five-six-seven decisions to make and probably 15 players here. Above all of that, there’s an absolute clarity of who we are and how we’re going to play. "We’ve got just under six weeks to the first game of the season. Obviously, we’ve added some new players and with 7-8 returning so now we reinforce who we are and how we’re going to play… game models, philosophy, game vision and a ton of repetition. This is where we’re ahead compared to last year." With all that serving as a backdrop, here’s our handy-dandy Valour FC camp preview:

Midfielder Dylan Carreiro Midfielder José Galán Defender Raph Garcia Midfielder Diego Gutiérrez Midfielder Raph Ohin Defender Yohan Le Bourhis Midfielder Federico Pena Goalkeeper Tyson Farago Goalkeeper Svetik Artemenko
WHO’S NEW (So far)

Midfielder Fraser Aird: Has spent most of the last eight years in Scotland, playing for Rangers, Falkirk, Dunfermline Athletic, Dundee United, Queen of the South and Cove Rangers. Has eight caps for Canada. Defender Arnold Boukou Moutou: Has spent the last few years playing in France’s Ligue 1 with FCO Dijon. Congolese international, with 19 caps. Forward Moses Dyer: Comes to Valour from New Zealand and via Florø of the Norwegian second Division. Also has 11 caps with the All Whites, New Zealand’s national team. Forward Daryl Fordyce: Veteran midfielder who spent last year with the Sligo Roovers in the League of Ireland. He is FC Edmonton’s all-time leading scorer. Midfielder Brett Levis: Saskatchewan product made 23 appearances for the Vancouver Whitecaps and is on the bubble for the Canadian men’s national team. Defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste: Joins Valour after a year with Umea FC in Sweden’s Division 1. Former first-round pick of the Portland Timbers who has extensive MLS experience with the Timbers, Chivas USA and New York Red Bulls. Has 10 caps with the Haitian national team. Winger Solomon Kojo Antwi: The 19-year-old joins the team after playing with the Glow Lamp Academy in Ghana. Has played for the Ghana U-20 team. Goalkeeper James Pantemis: On loan from the Montreal Impact after spending last three years in their system. Played two matches for the Impact last season and is on the Canadian roster for the upcoming Olympic qualifying. Defender Amir Soto: Panamanian who spent last year with CD Universitario (Liga Panameña de Fútbol). Midfielder Marcus Campanile: Selected second overall in the CPL-U Sports Draft last fall. A native of Edinburgh Scotland who was a member of the Academy team at Aberdeen FC and played with the University of Cape Breton, K-W United and the Calgary Foothills of the PDL. Forward Charlie Waters: Valour’s second selection in the U-Sport Draft, chosen 13th overall. Had 18 goals in 21 appearances for the University of Cape Breton and was the AUS Playoff MVP. Defender Chakib Hocine: Played last year with the HFX Wanderers. Winger Stefan Cebara: Did not play in 2019, but has played in Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia and Lithuania and has five caps for Canada. Midfielder Luca Ricci: Has had stints with the Ottawa Fury and Montreal Impact. Made two appearances for Canada’s U20 squad in 2017. Forward Austin Ricci: Appeared in nine matches last year for York9 FC Forward Shaan Hundal: Had 17 goals in 84 appearances for Toronto FC II and was loaned to the Ottawa Fury last year.

Gale indicated the club is still on the hunt for players at all three levels – a forward, a midfielder and defender, with a centre forward the most pressing need. "There’s one position where we are still really casting the net (centre forward), but the others we have narrowed down," Gale said. "We’re very close to bringing the one or two pieces and specific personnel have been invited and it’s a case of come in, see us, see the facility and understand the brand and culture here and if it’s a fit like we think it’s going to be then they’ll be here."

What the staff would like to unearth in camp are players who not only fill those needs, but have the versatility to line up all over the pitch. "We felt we had (versatility) last year, but a lot of them morphed into the same kind of player," Gale said. "We ended up with four that wanted to play the No. 10 (attacking midfielder). I thought they had more versatility to their game, but maybe because they were younger and inexperienced when it came to what they could actually deliver in the discipline, the talent acumen and the physical capacity to perform… we didn’t have as many as I’d hoped. I think that’s fair for me to say."

One of Valour’s biggest additions is goalkeeper James Pantemis, who is on loan from the Montreal Impact. Pantemis will also be part of Canada’s Olympic Team qualifier this month with matches against El Salvador on March 21, Haiti on March 24 and Honduras on March 27. Defender Yohan Le Bourhis is also getting a look from the Canadian coaches. Gale & Co. are thrilled for their new keeper, who will be here for the opening week of camp, but are also crossing their fingers he returns from his stint with the national team healthy and good to go for a heavy workload. "Look, I’ve been on the other side of this. It’s club vs. country," Gale said. "Part of our mandate is to promote the Canadian game, for sure. But when they’re key cogs in what you are trying to do for the season, there’s always an element of concern about missing that player for key moments or through injuries. It’s an enrichment of their game to experience international football, no question. "I think Johan Cryuff used to say playing in an international game was the equivalent of playing 20 league games for your brain and the knowledge and the talent of the players around you. You want them to experience that and hope everything goes well. But that’s part of being a club manager." Pantemis figures to play the majority of Valour’s matches this season. "He’s coming here to play, so (Montreal) is not just going to call him back if one gets injured. They need him to play. What was the guy that played for Carolina (Hurricanes)? David Ayres? He’s not going to be that guy. That’s what your guy in the stands is for. They need him to play. He’s a top-level goalie at this level and possibly beyond, so it’s a good agreement," Gale stated.

"What we feel very good about is the men in the room," Gale said. "Their game knowledge and overall understanding just feels different. What we’ve got is a level of experience mixed in with the ones that bought in last year and have the potential to grow with us. That should provide a more well-rounded squad."

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