- Major League Soccer (MLS) team CF Montreal has experienced a very tumultuous offseason.
- Head coach Thierry Henry announced his resignation on February 25.
- Assistant Wilfried Nancy has been hired as his replacement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on everyone and that includes professional athletes. Some teams and players have had it tougher than others, however, and that would include the MLS CF Montreal. Their offseason has been fraught with turmoil and the hope is that the start of the regular season on April 6 will bring that to an end.
The past month has been especially challenging starting with the announcement on February 25 that head coach Thierry Henry had decided to resign his post after just one year in charge due to family reasons. His rationale was understandable but justified or not it still left the team in something of a bind:
“It is with a heavy heart that I’ve decided to take this decision. The last year has been an extremely difficult one for me personally. Due to the worldwide pandemic, I was unable to see my children. Unfortunately due to the ongoing restrictions and the fact that we will have to relocate to the US again for several months will be no different. The separation is too much of a strain for me and my kids. Therefore, it is with much sadness that I must take the decision to return to London and leave CF Montréal.”
The announcement was not only a shock it put the team in a position where they had to find a new coach with just six weeks until the start of the regular season. Montreal sporting director Oliver Renard understood his motivation and maintained an aura of calm:
“Thierry’s departure is unfortunate and premature because this was very promising, but he informed me of his desire to be back with his family because the situation was and remains very difficult for both him and his family. I want to thank him, first on a human level because he led the players by example last year by being away from his family, but also from a sporting level and for what we have built together since his arrival. We wanted to elevate this club and we are on the right track. The process of finding a new head coach is already underway and I will be looking for someone who is aligned with the philosophy we have implemented.”
They didn’t have to look far to find a new head coach. On March 8, they hired longtime assistant Wilfried Nancy for the vacant job. The French native lobbied team executives for the job and sporting director Renard said he deserved the opportunity:
“When somebody makes something like this, to make the first step, you see in his eyes that he wanted it. I know his philosophy, I know what he wants for the club and what he’s done for the club.… It’s not that he asked for the chance, he deserved the chance.”
After Nancy was hired as CF Montreal’s eighth head coach in their ten year MLS tenure he talked about his passion for soccer:
“Soccer, this is my passion.… At 22 I recognized coaching would be my future. This is a good step, but it’s not a big step, because I am ready. I’ve been with a lot of coaches and I’ve learned a lot from them, I’m passionate about the game.”
“My goal is to build something great in Montreal. If we have a clear vision, I’m pretty sure we can do something amazing.”
Nancy will face a unique coaching challenge right off the bat. Due to travel restrictions between the US and Canada CF Montreal will start the season playing home games at Inter Miami CF’s stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.