Last Friday, midfielder Valentin Noël became the first Austin FC II player to compete in a first team match for Austin FC when he entered the Club’s Leagues Cup match as a 90th-minute substitute.
“I’m proud,” said Noël on getting his first minutes with Austin FC. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a while and getting a chance to play at a special stadium with a special atmosphere was a big moment of pride. I have close ones and family that have been following me on my path and it’s not an easy path but it’s only the beginning. It’s one step out of plenty of other ones but I’m extremely happy for the opportunity.”
Austin FC selected Noël in the first round of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft with the 20th overall pick. He scored the first-ever goal for ATXFC II in the team's inaugural MLS NEXT Pro match on March 24 at Parmer Field at St. David’s Performance Center. Noël has five goals and two assists in 18 games played for ATXFC II, tied for the team lead in both categories.
“I’m really grateful and fortunate to arrive in this environment with the coaching staff and players that we have,” said Noël on his time with Austin FC II. “I felt how everyone was genuinely happy for me. On this team, everybody is happy for each other's success and that was very heartwarming so I can’t thank them enough for that.”
Noël grew up in Niort, France, a town of nearly 60,000 in the Western part of the country. He began playing soccer for Chamois Niortais F.C. in their academy for the U11 team and started training with their first team at the age of 17. Noël played for the club up until he made the decision to move to the United States and attend the University of Pittsburgh.
“College gave me the opportunity to get to the U.S. and get my degree while still having that dream of being a professional soccer player,” said Noël. “In France, the coach told me if I want to make it to the pros, I would have to play at right-back. In college, I started playing as a midfielder and started learning how to play more offensively, I discovered the ability to score goals and be more decisive.”
Austin FC II currently sits in second place in the Western Conference and has the league's third-best goal differential at +15. Noël is tied for the team lead in goal contributions (7) and ranks second on the team in successful dribbles (21) while logging the fourth most minutes played (1,393).
“I want to continue winning,” said Noël. “There is a lot of season left and even though we’ve had some success, we haven’t accomplished anything yet. We want to continue to improve and hopefully host a home playoff match in front of our incredible fans."