CF Montreal last week moved to extend by a further year, Wilfried Nancy’s twelve-month contract to coach the club.
Front Office’s logic is difficult to fathom. The time to present a normally-termed 2-year deal was surely at appointment time. That’s exactly when they attached Nancy to a 12-month contract, suggesting the club weren’t entirely confident about the hire.
To be fair, Olivier Renard has been consistent. He’s on record stating play-off qualification wasn’t necessarily imperative for Nancy to remain in the role beyond his initial term. Instead, visible improvement was the key factor.
And, just a few months down the line, after eight games and the over-seeing of stuttered pre-season preparation, it seems they’ve seen enough to decide Nancy fits the bill.
Given their apparent initial caution it feels premature and it may even have caught the head-coach by surprise, but to my initial point, it’s probably no more than an effective, loyal club servant and a good football man deserved anyway.
It takes the pressure off somewhat, allows him to breathe yet not relax, and is acknowledgement of how he’s handled things so far.
But what of the start Wilfried Nancy has made?
Eleven points from eight games and sitting mid-table is exactly what I was expecting at this stage. The defeat against Cincinnati was the obvious low-point, and if taking three points from Soldier Field flatters the team’s poorest showing this season, then the last minute defeat in Atlanta was the opposite, robbing Nancy’s men of a well-deserved point at a very difficult venue.
The win over Toronto, handsome though it was, does not qualify to be the season’s best. All things considered there was more to admire in how Inter-Miami were despatched in the weather-delayed meeting that had fans grumbling, “This is ok but I have to get up for work in the morning.”
I’d also place the the Atlanta performance above the Toronto victory. Mercedes Benz Stadium has never been kind, and rarely if ever have The Five Stripes looked troubled by Quebec visitors, but they would count themselves lucky that evening.
If only Montreal had not snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Cincinnati, they could conceivably be sitting on a heady 14 points now. It would’ve elevated them to tied-second in both the Eastern Conference and the Supporters’ Shield.
Heady heights indeed, but let’s not get greedy (yet), or forget how difficult it was to hold on after losing a two goal lead at Nashville. Where they are, is just about right.
Some players have done remarkably well. Rudy Camacho, probably fortunate to still be at the club, has by some distance found his richest vein of form since leaving Belgium three seasons ago. Kamal Miller has been a steadying influence and while Victor Wanyama has been... Victor Wanyama, the side looks more complete with Samuel Piette in the line-up. Nancy must find a way to accommodate both men.
Ahmed Hamdy’s cameo first appearance has flattered only to deceive so far, but there’s still time for the Egyptian to showcase his talents. Mihailovic has been good, weighing in with goals and assists.
Romell Quioto has worked hard. Without disturbing the net much, he has three assists in the credit column, and Mason Toye has become a rejuvenated goal-a-game striker, when fit.
There are some others we’ve still not seen that much of so far.
The left-wing-back role has been problematic, with the main protagonists Kizza and Bassong. The former looks the better of the pair going forward, but neither has looked all that assured in defence.
On the opposite flank, Zachary Brault-Guillard began the season like a house on fire, although has appeared less effective since injury kept him out for a couple of games, and he must keep working hard on the defensive aspects.
3-5-2 is the preferred line-up, but once Binks is fit does that prompt a rethink? Could the back three become a back four? Maybe something more resembling a 4-2-3-1, which could also accommodate both Wanyama and Piette in a solid midfield axis?
Performances have taken on more the look of caution recently, Montreal finding it difficult to sustain the front-foot football witnessed from the opening weekends, Inter-Miami game apart.
Nancy has also engaged in quite frequent chopping and changing, especially up front, where it’s been difficult for partnerships to blend or flourish. Romell Quioto has had three different partners: Mason Toye (twice), Erik Hurtado (twice) and Bjorn Johnsen (three times). On the other occasion the front two was Johnsen and Ibrahim, which didn’t click either.
In the absence of effective pre-season warm-ups, it’s understandable if the head-coach remains undecided on strike partners, but the time for stability in that area is probably not far off, if not already here.
Harmony in the camp appears to be as good as it’s ever been, word on the street suggesting Nancy to be an effective team-builder, a leader who cares and understands human emotion. Of course he needs to be adept at the darker side of man-management too.
It’s really too early to call the appointment a success, but it’s also hard to argue after the first two months of the season, it’s been less than adequate or acceptable.
The side still has the look of mid-table about it, but there’s very little between mid-table and play-offs in MLS, so with just a little more push and a half-decent slice of luck, you just never know.
They do need to keep picking up early season points, as traditionally Montreal teams have come unstuck towards the business ends of seasons. There have been a few memorable exceptions of course.
MLS Cup won’t be realized in the near future, but improvement and consolidation as a base for further strengthening are realistic expectations.
Nancy’s first eight games in MLS? It’s a B+ from me!
How would you grade the beginning of Wilfried Nancy’s head-coaching tenure at CF Montreal?
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Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 32). Recorded last evening, the TBIR team reviewed last weekend’s Chicago Fire v CFM clash and asks, “What’s Next for Jonathan David?”....
They also discuss Wilfried Nancy’s 12-month contract extension and the busy period facing the Canadian Men’s and Women’s National teams.
All the usual favourite features are there including... Eve’s Time Machine, Sam’s Social Media & Hady’s CHOICES... Don’t miss it!
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