January 15th Edition

Canadians are on the move & Laurent Courtois is CF Montreal's new Gaffer

2024 is off to a promising start for Canadian footy!

Canadians are starting the new year with major performances from goals on goals to defensive masterclasses. Many Canucks in Europe have turned up and balled out with their clubs. 

Many are on the move in this transfer window. We have a hefty section below of ballers moving within MLS, CPL and Europe. Spoiler: the Whitecaps are once again making moves with smart transfers.

The real question is, will CF Montréal finally keep a coach for more than a season?

All that and plenty more in this week’s edition of The Northern Pitch.

CF Montreal

Let’s state the obvious: CF Montréal has had a rotating door for managers. Since 2019, they’ve had six that have come and gone. With Impact legend Mauro Biello as the longest-serving coach between 2015-2017.

Why is that? There are many reasons. Poor performances, inability to get the best out of players, and disagreements with the front office. Every kind of football managerial drama has occurred in MTL.

Two years being the maximum lifespan of coaches, MTL has never been able to establish a consistent footballing identity until Wilfried Nancy showed up.

Wilfried Nancy is no one-hit wonder. The man from seemingly nowhere, Thierry Henry’s assistant coach, has become an MLS Champion with Columbus Crew. His one-year stint in Montréal left an impression on the club and the league.

Nancy worked within the CF MTL academy and was an assistant coach for ten years. His understanding of developing talent is unparalleled. He has made nobodies into overnight sensations: Ismaël Koné, Kamal Miller, Joel Waterman, and Alistair Johnston all became league talking points.

Moreover, CF Montréal finished second in the Eastern Conference, established Stade Saputo as a formidable fortress and finished his first MLS season with one of the best away records in the league (11W-4L-2D).

You never know what you got until it’s gone. That’s how CFM felt witnessing Nancy lift the MLS Cup with Columbus Crew after just one season in Ohio. They had a winning formula, and they gave it to Columbus.

So, how is this relevant to Laurent Courtois? The new coach reflects Wilfried Nancy, and they’re both French. Perfect.

Qui est Laurent Courtois? Another man supposedly from nowhere, Courtois, has made a name for himself within the realms of MLS Next Pro. The man from Lyon led Columbus Crew II to championship glory and earned himself MLS Next Pro coach of the year honours.

Youth development is in his CV. Like Nancy, Courtois has spent most of his coaching career at the academy level. He has been an assistant coach for LA Galaxy II and head coach for the Lyon Academy, Columbus Crew Academy and Columbus Crew II.

Mo Farsi is a beast, and Jacen Russell-Rowe is showing promise. These are seemingly random statements, but the former Cavalry FC fullback and TFC II forward can thank Courtois for their rise. Both Canadians were vital in CLB Crew II’s championship drive and are now MLS champions. Courtois and Nancy have an eye for talent and know how to get the best out of players.

Courtois’ vibe matches with Bleu-Blanc-Noir. The Lyonnais has gained MTL’s attention mainly for his ability in player development. The club has focused on producing talent as opposed to attracting big names. With his background, he knows how to get the best out of ballers.

The current MTL squad is filled with young talents ready to reach a new level, such as Bryce Duke, Nathan Saliba, Mathieu Choinièré and Jonathan Sirois.

An identity must be established. Courtois is also tasked to establish an identity and activate the fans. Not only to win on the pitch but also to win the supporters' trust and to gain their energy. If you can read French, this RDS article gives complete insight.

So, can Laurent Courtois survive a season in Montréal? So far, Laurent Courtois is the best fit to replicate Wilfried Nancy’s success. It seems like he has what it takes to re-establish a club identity among players and supporters. Moreover, his eye for development is what excites most people.

It’s about winning. Most importantly, the front office must be patient and give Courtois time to establish his philosophy. With a two-year contract, it seems like CF Montréal is still holding on to the bad habit of short-term vision. Football takes time. Nancy winning a cup within one season is an anomaly.

Lastly, no one in Montréal should compare Courtois with Nancy. Let the man do his thing. Please.

Other news this week


🧊 Jonathan David scores on his 24th birthday! Remember when we were low-key freaking out that JD was not scoring at the beginning of the season? Well, that feels a little dumb now. David has scored against Monaco on his birthday. That is his fourth goal in 6 Ligue 1 matches.

🇮🇹 Tajon Buchanan was on the bench against Monza. The internet held their breath when Inter Milan announced their lineup against Monza. Twitter exploded when TJ’s name was on the substitute’s list. It makes his move to Inter Milan feel all that more real. Unfortunately, he did not get to play, but it’s only a matter of time. Also, Inter won 5-1 against Monza—his first dub in Italy.

🇮🇹 Evelyne Viens scores for Roma as they stay top of the table in Italy. It has been an outstanding first season in Rome for Evelyne Viens and she is off the mark in 2024, with the opening goal for Roma in a 3-0 victory over Pomigliano. Roma are currently 12-0-0 this season in the league and sit top of the table, six points above Julia Grosso and Juventus.

🇵🇹 Olivia Smith scores again! 2024 is off to an excellent start for Olivia Smith, who after scoring and adding three assists during a dominant 10-0 win in the league with Sporting CP last weekend, added the winner in a 1-0 victory over Racing Almada in the Taça da Liga semi-final first leg.

🍁 Three Canadians were selected in the NWSL draft. It’s been six years since Canadians have been drafted in the NWSL draft. Eleven Canadians were named in the draft this year, but only three were selected. The US-born Canadian Zoe Burns was drawn to the Utah Royals, 29th overall in the third round. Attacker Amanda West was chosen in the third round, 36th overall, to the Houston Dash—a significant addition for the Texas club for the highly touted forward. The San Diego Waves have picked up Mya Jones as their 42nd pick in round 3. Jones will be joining CanWNT’s #1 Kailen Sheridan.

🇪🇸 Cyle Larin scores for Mallorca. At first, we were worried, but now the momentum has been established. Cyle Larin finds the net against Celta Vigo in La Liga—his fourth goal in all competition, his second La Liga goal and his second goal of the week.

🇵🇹 Steven Vitoria is going viral in Portugal. The veteran defender has put in some defensive work by putting his body on the line. Dropping himself to the ground to deny two shots on goal. Pain? No. Clutch? Yes. Everyone loves beautiful sliding tackles, but to throw yourself into shots is an unspoken art.

Pacific FC

🔱 Pacific FC announce the departure of Manny Aparicio. A key member of the Tridents will be playing for a new club in 2024. Aparicio, won a CPL Championship with Pacific in his year with the club, and at 28, the midfielder has been nominated for the league’s Player of the Year award for back-to-back years. Where does Manny go next? Another CPL club? MLS? South America? Only time will tell.

🌊 Fafa Picault joins Vancouver Whitecaps. The BC club has picked up another veteran MLS forward Fafa Picault. The Caps acquired him as a free agent and under contract for 2024 with an option for 2025. The former Nashville forward will add experience to the Vancouver squad as they will go deep this season with the MLS season, CanChamps and Champions Cup.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Ike Ugbo joins Sheffield Wednesday on loan. The Canadian international has joined the Yorkshire club on loan as he is still under contract with French Ligue 2 side Troyes. He previously was on loan with Cardiff City and had “mixed fortunes” at the Welsh club. His move to Sheffield Wednesday will perhaps be a fresh start to kick start a consistent performance for the remainder of the season.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 David Wotherspoon joins Dundee United. Wotherspoon will join the Scottish Championship club that put Sir Alex Ferguson on the map. After three months with Inverness Caley Thistle, Wotherspoon has scored four goals in ten appearances. Not bad. The article we’re linking here has said that Wotherspoon had “defected” from the Scottish national team for Canada. Like he’s some sort of turncoat, we found it amusing.

🔴 TFC signed Honduran international Deiby Flores. Toronto has signed the Honduran defensive midfielder from Hungarian-side Fehérvár FC to a two-year deal with an option to extend for another season. Flores is no stranger to MLS, in his previous stint he played with the Whitecaps from 2015 to 2017. Flores will be inheriting the void left by the retired Michael Bradley.

🦅 Vancouver FC acquire Ben Fisk from Cavalry FC. A Vancouverite returns home. The Whitecaps graduate joins VFC as a CPL veteran after stints at Pacific FC, Atletico Ottawa, and Cavalry FC. He has also had spells in the US, Spain and Ireland. VFC had a rough inaugural year, but Fisk’s experience will help the club push forward. Above all, it is a homecoming for the East Vancouver lad. 

🇮🇹 Luca Petrasso joins Triestina in Serie C. The Toronto-born Italian will be going to Italy on a six-month loan with the option of a permanent transfer. The fullback has been loaned out from Orlando SC, and is eligible for the CanMNT. Canucks are finding their way to Europe. This is what we want to see.

Northern Picks

Gems from at home and across the pond.
This week’s picks come from Kobe (@vxualsbykobe)

Kobe by day and @vxualsbykobe behind the camera. This week’s picks are provided by the slick shooting visuals of Kobe. His talents can be found documenting footy, ball, and Montreal culture across the city.

📚 What to read

When not watching football, I dive into the Power Universe. I recently finished Power Book 4: Force and am currently hopping on Power Book III: Raising Kanan. I like shows that contain mostly Black characters, and crime shows are also my favourite to watch, especially in historical contexts.

📺 What to watch

Another thing I watched was “Team Talk,” a conversation with Cristale, Blackburn Rovers baller Dilan Markanday, and R&B artist Asha Gold about the challenges they faced growing up, including mental health, exam stress, relationship issues, prejudice and discrimination, and more.

🎧 What to listen to

Lately, I’ve been rotating between UK artists such as Dave and Knucks and also French artists like Gazo and Tiakola, who recently released a joint album called "LA MELO EST GANGX" 

✅ Who to follow

Nam Kunn (@namkunn), a photographer and Art Director at @bledfc