CF Montreal claims solid foundations and stability by 2022

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Djordje Mihailovic, Romell Quioto, Mason Toye, Sunusi Ibrahim and Alistair Johnston provide CFM with solid starters and building blocks.

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The already short Major League Soccer offseason has become shorter for CF Montreal following their victory at the Canadian Championship against Toronto FC in November, qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League.

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With the MLS regular season for CFM kicking off on February 27 in Orlando City, the team will first play a two-game total in the round of 16 against powerful Liga MX club Club Santos Laguna. The first leg will take place on February 15 at Estadio Corona at 10 p.m. before the Canadian club welcomes the Mexican team at Stade Saputo on February 22 at 8:30 p.m.

Unlike a year ago, following the sudden resignation shortly before training camp of manager Thierry Henry for personal reasons, there is much more stability as a new season approaches and more reasons for it. ‘be optimistic after the bar is set low in 2021.

“This season is a new starting point for next year,” said attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, named the team’s MVP and part of a strong returning squad.

And, for once, CFM will not announce a new manager.

Little was known about longtime assistant Wilfried Nancy when he was named Henry’s replacement. But it didn’t take long to realize that he had earned the respect of the players. Management exercised their option on Nancy’s 2022 contract in May and, while the team failed to meet their MLS playoff bid, remained mathematically alive until the final game of the regular season.

Toronto FC's Michael Bradley faces CF Montreal's Romell Quioto, up front, in the first half of the 2021 Canadian Championship game at Saputo Stadium on November 21, 2021, in Montreal.
Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley faces CF Montreal’s Romell Quioto, up front, in the first half of the 2021 Canadian Championship game at Saputo Stadium on November 21, 2021, in Montreal. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis /Getty Images

Considering the many obstacles that were overcome – including playing part of his home program in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – a 12-12-10 record was nothing to complain about.

“We were 27th out of 27 at the start of the year,” said Repentigny midfielder Samuel Piette. “We have been able to silence a lot of people and prove that maybe they don’t see us the right way. Most of the players will come back. The fundamentals are good and the return of Wilfried Nancy will allow us to continue to capitalize on what we have been working on.

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There is a solid foundation on which to build. CF Montreal has a strong team with a lot of options.

Romell Quioto, who scored eight team-leading goals in 19 games, and American Mason Toye, who scored seven goals in just 14 games before suffering injury, give CFM depth and offensive options.

19-year-old Sunusi Ibrahim is also a fast and talented player. He has scored four goals in 26 appearances, but has been limited to nine starts.

6-foot-5 forward Bjørn Johnsen turned out to be a disappointment with just two goals – both scored in the same game – but sporting director Olivier Renard has made it clear that management is not ready to cut the bait with him. While Johnsen was left unprotected in the expansion draft, he was not one of the five players claimed by Charlotte FC.

“It’s so easy to kill him now, and he would be the first to admit he hasn’t played a great season,” Renard said on his late season availability. “We know that in sports and football you can have a bad season. He’s still under contract. I still trust him. Everyone knows it was a strange season for him. He needs a lot to change, but we still have confidence. We will see.”

Mihailovic, acquired from Chicago for a potential US $ 1million in general allowance, was the catalyst on the pitch that kept the team together. While he scored four goals, his franchise record of 16 assists proved more valuable. Combined with Canadian defenseman Kamal Miller, these players, along with versatile defenseman Alistair Johnston – acquired in a December 23 deal with MLS Nashville SC – provide CF Montreal with strong starters and building blocks. .

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Alistair Johnston of Nashville SC controls the ball during the second half against FC Cincinnati at Nissan Stadium on April 17, 2021 in Nashville.
Alistair Johnston of Nashville SC controls the ball during the second half against FC Cincinnati at Nissan Stadium on April 17, 2021 in Nashville. Photo by Brett Carlsen /Getty Images files

While Renard generously tinkered with his roster a year ago, he feels he is less active this winter and said he has confidence in the base group.

“My philosophy is not changing,” he said. “I don’t want a great player on the pitch. I want a team on the ground. We have important players. We can build something with the young players.

“Djordje was a kid from Chicago when we took him. Many thought it was so-so… and I was asked about the acquisition. But I was pretty sure he would be an important new player.

Renard said improving the back line will be a concern, especially as the team left veteran French defender Rudy Camacho, named CFM’s defensive player of the year.

A potential replacement is 21-year-old center-back Gabriele Corbo, on loan from Bologna FC 1909. Corbo is right-handed and, according to Renard, is comfortable playing in a back row three or four. Corbo was in Montreal long before the deal was announced.

With five of its first six regular season games on the road, another quick start will be imperative for CFM to remain in contention in the Eastern Conference. In 2021, the team lost just one of their first five matches.

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  1. Nashville SC defenseman Alistair Johnston crosses the ball after passing CF Montreal defenseman Mustafa Kizza in the first half at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on April 24, 2021.

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  2. CF Montreal's Djordje Mihailovic controls the ball against Toronto FC's Noble Okello in the first half during the 2021 Canadian Championship final at Saputo Stadium on November 21, 2021 in Montreal.

    Champions League draw between CF Montreal and Santos Laguna

  3. Fiorentina's Patrick Cutrone, left, and Bologna's Gabriele Corbo compete for the ball during a Serie A soccer match between Fiorentina and Bologna, at Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence, Italy on Wednesday July 29, 2020.

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  4. CF Montreal's Djordje Mihailovic controls the ball against Toronto FC's Noble Okello in the first half during the 2021 Canadian Championship final at Saputo Stadium on November 21, 2021 in Montreal.

    The change of scenery has propelled FC Montreal MVP Mihailovic to new heights

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