After sneaking into MLS Play-offs in 2020, via the very last spot available (9th), the former Montreal Impact will be hoping for better in 2021, not least because only the top 7 progress.
The club has a very different look about it after the off-season. Gone is head coach Thierry Henry and there’s been a huge transfusion of new playing personnel while many others have departed for pastures new.
Sporting Director Olivier Renard has been a very busy man but is quietly confident of the team’s chances, despite potentially having to play all home games in Fort Lauderdale.
Club de Foot Montreal (2020 MLS record 8-13-2 Scored/Conceded 33/43. Finished 9th in Eastern Conference. Lost 1-2 away to New England Revolution in the Play-in Round of the Play-offs).
Head Coach: Wilfried Nancy
Key Additions: Djordje Mihailovic, Ahmed Hamdy, Kamal Miller, Bjorn Johnsen, Kiki Struna, Joaquin Torres, Zorhan Bassong, Erik Hurtado, Sunusi Ibrahim, Giuseppe Barone.
Key Departures: Bojan Krkic, Jukka Raitala, Orji Okwonkwo, Maxi Urruti, Rod Fanni, Shamit Shome, Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Jorge Corrales, Steeven Saba.
Projected Best XI: (Fluid: 5-3-2 defending, 3-5-2 attacking)... Diop - Brault-Guillard, Struna, Binks, Miller, Kizza - Wanyama, Piette, Mihailovic - Johnsen, Quioto
Best Off-season move: There’s been a few of note, and not all incoming. Due to his salary, moving Maxi Urruti on to Houston is a positive. Despite the player’s admirable commitment and attitude, his style never really fitted any of the systems adopted by successive Montreal coaches.
Another roster spot opened up with the overdue departure of Anthony Jackson-Hamel whose long tenure at the club has finally ended.
Of the new arrivals, Egyptian u23 international Ahmed Hamdy looks tasty, as well as Djordje Mihailovic the former Chicago Fire play-maker. There is also optimism that 6ft 6in, Norwegian international Bjorn Johnsen can consistently provide much-needed goal-power.
Reasons to be worried about (your team):
Well, they may now exist under a different guise, but it’s still the same old Montreal Impact, so hope prevails amongst fans raised on mediocrity, rather than expectation.
There’s also a cloud over the club following January’s rebrand, poorly received by many followers, and the fact that Montreal is unlikely to play home games at Stade Saputo in 2021, instead stationing themselves in Fort Lauderdale.
Despite not always finding results last season Montreal was heading in the right direction under departed Thierry Henry. Responsibility now resides with his former assistant, Wilfried Nancy to sustain progress, but with a huge complement of new players.
Much depends on how much a fortress Montreal can turn the 18,000-seat, Inter-Miami CF stadium into, and how quickly the newcomers can blend together.
At least this time around player families will be accommodated in Florida, a huge plus compared to last season, but with so many new players onboard it’s reasonable to expect CF Montreal to not hit the ground running.
A win in their opening game against traditional rival Toronto FC would be a massive fillip, however the first Canadian Classique of the new season may be scheduled just too soon for the men from Quebec.
Why (your team) are worth watching:
Sporting Director, Olivier Renard has been successful previously in Belgium with player recruitment. With each of KV Mechelen and more especially Standard Liege, he generated significant profits from recruiting shrewdly, players that each club was able to develop and sell-on at significant profit.
His scouting network is extensive and covers not only Europe. The players recruited by Montreal are far from being household names, however it was the same at Renard’s previous clubs.
The Belgian is optimistic about the new season and feels confident CF Montreal will make progress. Although fans and media may still express doubt over the quality of the new workforce, one thing that everyone agrees on is that Renard’s prudence has ensured more than adequate cover for every position. He’s also recruited players for similar positions with differing attributes, providing greater flexibility of systems for the coach.
As well as the expectancy and optimism that comes with an influx of new players, Montreal last season, was generous when it came to goals. Their 23 regular season MLS games produced an average of more than three goals per game, another good reason for suggesting they could be a worthwhile watch in 2021.