MONTREAL – It is not time to take stock for CF Montreal, but it is easy to see that the result obtained in the last game of the season was not what was desired.
Minutes after suffering a 2-1 loss in Columbus and after seeing the New York Red Bulls eliminate them in spectacular fashion, Montrealers were in no mood to celebrate Saturday night.
Installed in eighth place in the Eastern Association before the last day of MLS activities, the Bleu-blanc-noir fell to 10th position and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Angry faces pierced the screen. Head coach Hernan Losada hid his disappointment poorly, but like a good captain, he praised the attitude of his young team, which fought until the last minute.
“It’s up to us to hold our heads high. I think we represented the club with great honor,” he said. I told my group they could leave Columbus with their heads held high. The players deserved to make the playoffs, but we failed to do so. They never gave up and I am personally proud to represent this team. »
CF Montreal arrives in Columbus with its destiny in its hands, even though it has won just one of its last eight games. That he’s even in a position to make the playoffs is a miracle, but the rollercoaster performance has finally caught up with him.
Through injuries, transactions and youth in the group, the Montreal squad started the season with just one win in its first seven games before slowly progressing. However, he has lost crucial points at home in the last few weeks and has never been able to find his feet going overseas.
After breaking the MLS record in 2022 for the most wins on opposite sides (11), the Bleu-blanc-noir mustered just eight points from a possible 51 in a similar situation in 2023. It will undoubtedly be a correction point for next season.
“It would have helped us win more games on the road,” admitted defenseman Joel Waterman. Also, we wouldn’t be in this position if we got a better result at home against Chicago and Cincinnati. We need to look in the mirror and find what we can improve. It’s not for other teams to help us. This emotional maturity will be important for this group next year. »
Obviously, the Montrealers are showing a very different face this season than last campaign, where they broke several team records.
During the off-season, the club made lucrative transfers in midfielders Djordje Mihailovic and Ismaël Koné as well as defender Alistair Johnston. During the season, he also traded for Kamal Miller and Rudy Camacho, two pillars of the defense.
The arrival of many new players may explain the slow start to the season and the chemistry may have taken longer to build. At least that’s a hypothesis raised by defender George Campbell, who was acquired from Atlanta United before the start of the campaign.
“A lot of guys from last year left, a lot came in. Maybe it’s just a matter of time that this group is on the same page, that the guys are playing better. We have to stick together,” he said. Campbell.
It is also a question of experience. CF Montreal has never hidden its development plans and it continues to follow this path this season. The acquisitions of Bryce Duke and Kwadwo Opoku, the increased use of Nathan Saliba and Jules-Anthony Vilsaint as well as the emergence of Mathieu Choinière and Jonathan Sirois clearly show this.
With one more season under the belt – and a first in some cases – Losada hopes his young players can learn from the experiences of 2023 and come out stronger next year. .
“We’ve experienced a lot of different situations and I think the group has improved a lot,” Losada said. Looking at some players, if we compare the beginning of the season compared to now, there is a lot of progress. It takes a little introspection to improve. We need to look at what we are doing right and what we need to improve. We’ve learned a lot this season and we’ll just have to see how this group comes out. »
Asked if he thought he would return to the helm of the team in 2024, Losada was cautious. The Argentinian has one more year of contract to complete, but the coaching carousel is familiar in Montreal.
“This is an analysis that we will do with the whole club, but especially with (vice-president and chief sporting officer) Olivier Renard. He is my boss. He chose me and he chose this group of players. We have built this season to aim for even more progress next year,” reasoned the head coach.