Sometimes, you sit down in the midst of a Winnipeg winter, having grown bored of watching people freeze in place on the corner of Portage & Main, desperate to find something to entertain the kids for at least an hour longer, and you think to yourself:
How can we make the playoffs?
Playoff soccer, playoff hockey — anything that will get the kids glued to the TV while you nip off upstairs with the wife to watch curling.
Fortunately, CanPL HQ has come up with a way to help you succeed. All you need is a few handy power tools and a degree in advanced probabilities to get started with this exciting new project!
Everyone in your (limited, let’s be honest) social circle can already tell you how Jones beat Gushue in the 3/4 back in 198wotsitnow and expound in depth on the best approach to play yourself into fifth for a shot at Team Ontario, which, in CanPL, is very much the team to beat.
More on Sportscentre at eleven.
The most important thing to remember is that you can do this!
Step One: Turn over half your team. Personal drama very much optional, but always welcome. Channel your favourite skip. More big names out the door, the better.
This won’t actually help your team, at least not in the immediate, but it’s basically the quintessentially Canadian way to get younger, faster, and better in the long-term. You don’t so much talk about process like they do in Toronto; it’s more of a polite Red Wedding.
|Off to Team Canada
|Back to Local Curling Club
|Juan Pablo Sanchez
( * Good Prairie boy, knows his curling.)
The local club might well and often does beat Team Canada, but this is normal on the Prairies, and most of those names were getting older, or moved on to other ventures. None of them are irreplaceable, but sobbing into your beer is okay. We all need time to heal.
There might be a little concern over how much firepower went out the door, but that’s a question for after the round-robins. Anyway, Sean Rea is absolutely tearing it up in MLS and Moses Dyer is already off the board in USL. You’re proud of ’em.
At this point, resist the urge to start assembling furniture or drilling holes in anything. Usually better to start at the bottom.
The downside of relying on loans from MLS, as we did in years past, is we now have nobody proven in goal. Fortunately, you can find discount goalkeepers who used to be MLS-calibre in USPORTs, and so Valour have signed Jordan Tisseur for us from FC Laval. He’s a proven lower-level Canadian ‘keeper, but not Jonathan Sirois.
Rayane Yesli played a bit last year and looked a bit more confident. We’re going to have him pushing Tisseur more than he did Sirois, which is good.
The key piece at this stage is Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Handle with care, as his knees are fragile, but when you get him in the right place his can hold the whole system we’re building here together.
If your package does not contain Rocco Romeo, don’t panic. Check instead for Tony Mikhael; if you can’t find him, either, send away for Guillaume Pianelli from USPORTs.
Pianelli’s an international shipment so there may be a 2-3 week delay, but he’ll actually count as domestic until his eligibility in Trois-Rivieres is up. He’s also one of the best centre-backs in university soccer: he’s got all the physical tools, calm with his feet, positionally sound, cerebral, and obviously ready for CanPL. Absolute steal for the price.
Abdou Samake is your warranty option here.
Prefer a workmanlike approach to the fullback positions. The previous Valour package was really heavy on average fullbacks, which is why some reorganization was necessary. Andy Baquero remains, and was probably the best of the former bunch. Matteo de Brienne spent some time as a very attacking wingback last year, and they’ve added Jordan Haynes, whom I’ve always liked despite his limits. It’s a workmanlike group.
Step Two: Fit Raphael Ohin back into central midfield.
Getting Ohin back is really nice for the fans who like to have a local boy to cheer. He’s also more aggressive than Glenn Howard after a good end.
Ohin’s been out with injuries for the better part of two years, and we’ll all be holding our breath when he goes into a challenge, but when he gets them right he adds the bite Valour has been missing in midfield.
Marcello Polisi is available if you need calm, confident guidance on the ball at this point, and Kevin Rendon returns as a nifty passer who’s responsible defensively. Dante Campbell is tucked inside the break-in-case-of-emergency box — he was with Valour on PEI in 2020 but has had a rough couple years.
It’s not a flashy group, but it will hold while the attack gets five or six runners forward, which is what we want to have happening at this point.
Step Three: Now we bring it all together in attack. Which is, if we’re being honest, where the problems have been in the past: Valour scored more goals than the non-playoff teams in 2022 but not more than any of the playoff teams (they tied Pacific). Which is why they should be a playoff team in 2023. Simple!
We’re missing one Moses Dyer-shaped piece to pull it all together, though. There are a couple of solutions to scoring the goals, but none have exactly the mix of creative channel-running and resourceful hold-up play the best DIYers like Moses Dyer could bring. But we’re doing this on a budget.
See if the injury-rehabbed Anthony Novak fits. He’s a very different kind of player, one who really needs service from the wings, but fortunately Valour have a pile of wingers and wingbacks, so there’s a shot Novak could return to his 2019 form, albeit it’s gonna require a couple bangs from the hammer.
Walter Ponce is one of those attacking wingers/runners, and is coming off a decent 2022 with the feeling he could probably still do more. There’s Jaime Siaj, too, a Spanish veteran who’s played in the Irish league, making him the perfect Valour signing, but he has spent a good chunk of time in USL, where he scored playing either on the left or up top. He’s the closest thing to your Dyer replacement.
Kian Williams is a younger international, likely a result of the league’s (dumb) new rule limiting over-23 internationals. He’s mostly played in the Icelandic second division, which I believe also makes him the perfect Valour signing. I expect the league to come out with a rule to prevent this kind of thing in 2025.1For the sake of accuracy, Williams actually has lots of appearances for Keflavik, a not-recently-very-good first-division Icelandic team, but he’s only 22, so a pretty decent prospect. I just like making fun of Valour’s roster moves.
Pacifique Niyongabire has a better name than he does stats,2His nickname is “Wazzi” which might be even better. but he has played in the A-League, just like Dyer. He’s more realistically Ponce’s back-up, and another U23 international who’s supposedly going to be sold on to Europe….
And… ta-da! A roster that can finish fifth as well as anyone’s.
I mean, yeah. It’s not that good. There are questions about the depth, but every one has those on the first go. But it’s yours. And it has a couple players at every spot. Practice makes perfect. If at first you don’t succeed….
Once it’s all fired up, it’s a team capable of… losing to Pacific and beating Cavalry. Which is about what you’d expect.
Also got a win and a drew from VanFC, which is reassuring. Don’t worry, some smoke is normal.
It’s where they always finish. Three out of four seasons, in fact.
I mean, they’re saying all the right things about it not being acceptable this year, have to make the playoffs, blah blah blah. But the fun part of the new system is Valour can still finish fifth, go out in the play-in, which would probably be about what this group deserves on paper, and Phil can say he made the playoffs!
There are some off-field questions about attendance and such, and it’s unlikely a team in Winnipeg is ever going to be more than workmanlike for many of the same reasons (talent pool, recruitment) that affect Wanderers.
But if there’s one club the new playoff system should help, it’s Valour. If there’s one thing you can say for Winnipeggers, it’s that they do understand the format, and how to get things done. A playoff game would give them something to cheer about when the Jets go out in the second round again.