Having watched a lot of football I’ve often wondered on this side of the Atlantic if the role of skipper is considered as important as what we tend to see in Europe for instance.
I think back to the great captains over there who bore enormous leadership influence on the pitch; Keane, Gerrard, Maldini, Baresi, Kompany, Terry, Totti, Hierro, Puyol and so on. I don’t quite see the same sphere of influence from the MLS captain, apart maybe from (whisper it here) Michael Bradley.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s an honorary responsibility in north America, but watching an MLS game, the player cast in the role of captain is often easily forgotten, or at least if you miss the pre-game formalities a mystery, although the armband should give it away.
Still the man technically in charge on the pitch should have certain attributes, not least leadership and the respect of his team-mates, earned usually through his exploits in the game.
I don’t believe for one minute Wilfried Nancy when he says, he hasn’t yet made his mind up with only days remaining before the big kick-off. I’m sure CF Montreal’s new coach knows exactly how the ‘captain debate’ has already panned out.
For me there are really only two candidates for the prime role, and whichever one is chosen the other should deputize.
Luis Binks is not one of my pair of selections, but probably only because he’s not likely to be in Montreal after this season finishes. Yes he’s very young, but in how he handles himself on and off the pitch his demeanour screams out LEADERSHIP. He might need to cut down on the yellow cards though, and that could happen naturally in a more successful and settled side.
Binks is certain to captain a team one day, and possibly before he’s not much older, but at this stage of his development it’s probably better he concentrates on simply being a very good centre-back. It wouldn’t prevent me from handing the youngster the armband even now though, should both my choices for captain be unavailable at the same time.
I’m sure it won’t surprise too many to learn the identities of my candidates in Victor Wanyama and Samuel Piette.
Each are probably captains on the pitch anyhow, but only one can be the figurehead. I’m plumping for Piette, and I’m sure that’s where Wilfried Nancy’s thought process already is.
Apart from being unconvinced that Wanyama formally wants or relishes the responsibility, even though he does perform the role internationally for Kenya, Sam has that welcoming gene, handles the press well, encourages, wears his Quebec heart on his sleeve, knits everyone together and has their respect.
You sense his love for the province and the football club is such that he wants to project the best of both and ensure new arrivals from overseas feel at home and enjoy the positives his homeland has to offer.
Of course competition for midfield places will be much more intense this season and you wonder if Nancy sets some games up with only one defensive midfielder, will it be Wanyama or Piette who gets the start?
This perhaps adds some complexity to the debate, however if Piette as captain, is benched in any particular game and Wanyama as vice-captain, plays, the solution is simple.
So it’s Sammy for me.
As for the man who matters most, we’ll find out on Saturday what he’s decided when hostilities finally resume...
Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 23). Recorded Wednesday evening (7 April), the TBIR team discusses CFM’s Florida rendezvous, the goalkeeping situation, the new MLS schedule, opening game v Toronto FC and the MLS pundits’ unflattering CF Montreal predictions... Plus all the usual favourite features... including, Eve’s Time Machine... Don’t miss it!
Also... great chat with CF Montreal’s new signing Kamal Miller recorded Fri 9 April (on a special episode 24) - well worth a listen...
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