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CF Montreal: Offseason needs ahead of 2024 MLS season

CF Montreal missed the playoffs by just two points, but they posted one of the worst goal differentials (-16) in MLS in the 2023 season.

They fired head coach Hernan Losada after the season, but they have a lot of decisions to make regarding how they will shape their squad in the future.

Montreal still has money to spend after the sales of Ismael Kone, Alistair Johnston, and Djordje Mihailovic to European clubs.

Let’s get into CF Montreal’s needs going into the offseason.

Find a coach

Before signing any players, CF Montreal needs to find the person to lead those players.

They have had some big-name coaches since entering MLS in 2011, including former Leeds United and RB Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch, interim Canada Men’s National Team coach Mauro Biello, former Lyon coach Remi Garde, global legend Thierry Henry, and Wilfried Nancy, who will lead Columbus Crew in the MLS Cup Final this weekend.

The club fired Losada despite him posting the second-highest points per match tally of any manager in club history at 1.46. That indicates that owner Joey Saputo – who once almost drove Nancy to quit due to an argument they had after losing to the last-placed team in 2022 – is intent on building a winner.

If Saputo wants to build a winner, he should emulate winners. 

MLS Cup finalists and defending champions LAFC have former United States Men’s National Team player Steve Cherundolo. This year’s Supporters Shield winning side, FC Cincinnati, signed both its head coach and general manager, Pat Noonan and Chris Albright respectively, from 2020 Supporters Shield winners the Philadelphia Union.

One name to look at is Dominic Kinnear, a 56-year-old Scottish coach who won MLS Cup in back-to-back seasons at the helm of Houston Dynamo in 2006 and 2007. He is currently an assistant with FC Cincinnati and was on the LA Galaxy coaching staff from 2017 to 2020.

Build the attack

Similar to fellow Canadian strugglers Toronto FC, CF Montreal’s attack left a lot to be desired in 2023.

Montreal’s top scorer this season was wing-back Mathieu Choiniere with five goals. Two players scored four goals and three players scored three goals.

Durability and availability were also issues, as three-goal scorer Romell Quioto played just 797 minutes and four-goal scorer Kwadwo Opoku played just 928 minutes.

The only attacker to play more than 1,500 minutes was Chinisio Offor, who scored four goals on 5.2 expected goals.

Opoku joined the team halfway through the season in a $1.75 million deal from Los Angeles FC and he scored against some of the league’s best teams in Columbus and Cincinnati, but he had a five-game goal drought amid the 15 games he played for Montreal last season.

Offor and Sunusi Ibrahim, 23- and 21-year-old forwards respectively, both undershot their xG over the course of the season, but their roles in the squad seemed to change from week to week.

The formation in attack changed regularly under Losada. He consistently used three center backs with two central midfielders and wing-backs, but in attack, he would alternate between a single playmaker behind two strikers, a front three, and two attacking midfielders behind a single striker.

Flexibility is good, but only in moderation. Losada’s flexibility – used both by choice and due to circumstance – came at the expense of player chemistry.

Spend some money

As mentioned, CF Montreal made over $15 million in player sales between the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

They still have only one designated player: Victor Wanyama, who played 1,789 of a possible 3,060 minutes last season and did not contribute any goals or assists. He was signed in 2020.

Of the 26 players to score double-digit goals in the 2023 MLS season, just six were non-designated players. Those players are Brian White, Duncan McGuire, Jordan Morris, Amine Bassi, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Nico Gioacchini.

While those players are not designated players themselves, they each have a designated player or two creating chances for them.

It’s clear that in MLS, goals are not always bought, but they have to be paid for by splashing the cash on a player who can create for himself or his teammates.

Finding an available player who can do those things is, of course, a challenge. 

Newly-minted 2023 MLS MVP Luciano Acosta started his career in Argentina, played four seasons at DC United, and moved to Mexico before signing for Cincinnati, where he won the league’s top individual award. He posted just one goal and two assists in 32 league appearances before DC signed him, further proving the randomness of where and how MLS stars begin their careers.

Searching for top performers who play for teams in lesser-known leagues is a good place to start looking for a potential top MLS player.

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