May 13th Edition

Drama in La Belle Province, Messi Mania & Canucks bagging goals and hardware abroad

We usually do our best to provide coast-to-coast coverage here at The Northern Pitch, but clearly, this week, one province deserves particular attention.

It was a wild week for ball in “la belle province”, with drama both on and off the field. We dish on all the latest.

We talk Messi, Renard, Saint-Laurent and plenty more in this week’s edition. Plus some HUGE goals from CanMNT stars, more silverware for CanWNT ballers and a CanMNT manager update

CF Montréal

😬 Drama in “la belle province”

Photo: CF Montréal

First Mathieu Choinière and now Olivier Renard. CF Montréal is incapable of having a drama-free season. In 2019, the club hired Olivier Renard as the sporting director after his time as a sports consultant for the Belgian club Royal Antwerp.

Under his tenure, CFM signed players who have become household names, such as Kamal Miller, Alistair Johnston, Joel Waterman, Ismaël Koné, and Jonathan Sirois. Renard was the perfect fit for what the club demanded. He recruited talent on a budget.

If he’s such a perfect fit, why is he gone? Joey Saputo wants to implement the moneyball philosophy a la max to minimize cost as much as possible. That method worked in 2022, mainly because Wilfried Nancy took the league by storm. However, the goal of sports is ultimately to win, which means investing in players who can get you silverware. Nancy won the league with Columbus because investments were made. Tony Marinaro’s take is the most convincing, reflecting the supporters' feelings. Like Wilfried Nancy, why should he stay if Olivier Renard cannot do his job?

The signs aren’t great. All those who have been a positive influence on the club have all left in similar situations. Olivier Renard’s hiring instilled positivity among the supporters. He has recruited the right players who worked within the club’s system. Moreover, bringing in players like Matias Coccaro and Josef Martinez this season made the supporters feel confident.

With that in mind, why let him go? It’s unfortunate. With Mathieu Choinière requesting a trade, it’s clear the tensions within the club are forced financial restraints.

What is Saputo’s intention with the club? There is no debate that Saputo is pivotal in bringing professional football into Quebec and fostering a soccer community. It appears his intentions with the club are financial instead of performance.

Perhaps his intentions are long-term, and he aims to save money for greater plans. Who really knows? The lack of transparency is agitating the fans. Above all, the supporters are patient so long as they can see progress. However, removing those positive figures within the club is a cause for concern.

Ten years later, this tweet by Joey Saputo did not age well. The supporters still deserve better. Olivier Renard's departure seems again to indicate the point of tension: Joey Saputo.


🤩 Messi Mania + CS Saint-Laurent deliver good vibes

Photo: Ararsa Kitaba / ClubEleven

Step aside, Hulk Hogan; it’s Messi Mania. Footballing Jesus, Argentinian God, Barcelona’s prodigal son, the greatest left-foot in history touched down in Montréal this week.

The mania is real. Fans swarmed The Ritz-Carlton to glimpse Messi walking from the bus and into the hotel. On game day, Stade Saputo erupted to piercing decibels as soon Messi, Suarez, and Busquets touched the grass for warm-up.

The game itself was electric. CFM always turns up for big home games. The first half was a dream start for Bleu-Blanc-Noir, with goals from Bryce Duke and Jules-Anthony Vilsaint exposing Miami early into the game. Despite the 2-0 lead, Inter Miami turned it up and ended the game 3-2.

Despite the loss, this was one of the best performances from CF Montréal. They played as a unit and played key passes with dangerous counter-attacks. Also, this was an impressive performance, considering MTL’s extensive injury list. Jules-Anthony Vilsaint, George Campbell and Joel Waterman had stand-out performances.

Truth be told, Messi and Suarez were not the best players for Inter Miami. They had flashes of brilliance, but we’re not the main threats. Despite scoring a goal, Suarez played like Messi, with minimal effort, and spent much time walking. Whereas, Sergio Busquets absolutely balled out all game, along with Matias Rojas and Benjamin Cremaschi, who put in a shift.

Earlier in the week, perhaps the biggest story of the year in Canadian soccer occurred in the CanChamps.

Does CS Saint-Laurent deserve to be a CPL club? The League1 champions believe they should. With over 6000 in attendance on a rainy Wednesday night, the CS Saint-Laurent Ultras, Commando Orange, created a vibe that was one of the game's main talking points. Despite losing 3-0 to TFC, Saint-Laurent played bravely and kept attacking until the end.

Fans were treated to seeing Matty Longstaff and Federico Bernadeschi grace the pitch of the Brutalist marvel Stade Claude-Robillard, the ancestral home of L’Impact de Montréal.

Québec talents need an outlet. Many Quebecois players need to break out into the professional scene. Many find their space in CPL and MLS clubs outside of the province. Players like Mohammed Farsi, Moïse Bombito and Woobens Pacius found their pro debut outside Québec. CS Saint-Laurent proved that Quebec needs a CPL club for local talents to have the opportunity to go professional. Joshua Healey’s article provides a perfect discussion on the topic.

This game made one thing clear to everyone: Québec needs a CPL club. As Montrealers are slowly disenchanted by CFM, many would rather turn to a grassroots local club that truly represents the city. CS Saint-Laurent made that case.


👏 Alphonso Davies & Tajon Buchanan bag big goals

Photos: Inter Milan & Bayern Munich

A pair of Canada’s biggest stars scored significant goals in their careers this past week — with the potential to be game-changers in their playing trajectory.

This newsletter (and others) have documented the frayed relationship between Alphonso Davies and Bayern Munich. It’s gotten so bad that he wasn’t even starting the cub’s biggest game of the year, which came this week against Real Madrid—coincidentally, the team he has been heavily linked to over the past few months.

After coming on as an injury replacement for Serge Gnabry, however, in the 27th minute, Davies scored the biggest club goal (the first goal ever for your country at a World Cup is a pretty big deal, IMO) in his career. His lovely curling effort looked like it would win the match for Bayern and send them back to the Champions League final. However, Real Madrid gonna Real Madrid, and they scored two late to set up a match against Borussia Dortmund. For Davies, however, it was a reminder of what he can do.

Meanwhile in Italia, Tajon Buchanan was taking some notes as he also cut in from the left to blast home his first goal for Inter Milan in a 5-0 dub over Frosinone. It was also an important moment as after a few substitute appearances for the club this season he looks to prove he should be in line for more minutes next season.

With a big summer coming up for the national team, having these two ballers in top form is critical. These goals will go a long way towards boosting their respective confidence levels.

Other news this week

📰 News from at home and abroad


🇵🇹 Olivia Smith POTY in Portugal. When you ball out like she has been doing, awards are only going to follow. Media partner ZeroZero has named Olivia Smith the Player of the Year in the Portuguese league. With 13 goals and nine assists, she leads all players in goal contributions in Portugal this season. This will surely be the first of many for one of Canada’s brightest talents.

🏆 Jayde Rivière wins the W FA Cup. Canadians in Europe are picking up silverware left and right. Jayde Rivière and Manchester United faced Tottenham Hotspurs in the Adobe Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley this time. The Markham defender started at right-back in United’s 4-0 win over the North London club. Will she lift the FA Cup at Wembley? Check. What’s next for Rivière?

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Theo Bair wins POTY for Motherwell. Was there ever any doubt? After an outstanding first campaign with Motherwell in the Scottish Prem, Theo Bair was named the team’s Player of the Year for 2024. How did he celebrate? He picked up a pair of assists in a 5-1 demolition of Ross County. That puts him on 15 goals and six assists for the season. Fellow Canadian Harry Paton bagged as well for Motherwell—lots to celebrate in Scotland.

🏆 Marie-Yasmine Alidou picks up more silverware. The Montrealer's trophy cabinet is about to break. After winning Super Taça and the Taça Da Liga last week, Benfica confirmed their league title victory in a 2-1 win over Racing Power. Alidou came off the bench in the 70th minute. It’s just her first season in Lisbon, and it’s going down to be memorable.

📰 A small update on the CanMNT coaching search this week. Kristian Jack reported on OneSoccer that Canada had a really positive interview with Stefan Kuntz, the former German international and most recently coach of Turkey’s national team. However, both sides have moved on and Kuntz is no longer in the running.

👀 Julia Grosso to NWSL? Sources in Italy suggest that Grosso’s time at Juve might be coming to a close. While she has balled out and been incredibly successful in Italy, a move closer to home might be key for the next stage in her career evolution. For example, returning to play in the NWSL has done wonders for the national team's stock of ballers like Gabrielle Carle and Quinn.

🧊 A brace for Jonathan David. Jonathan David continues bag goals, with two goals in the first eleven minutes on Sunday and Lille picked up an important three points over Nantes to move up into third place in Ligue 1. While he isn’t expected to stick around with the club, they are closing in on a Champions League position and have not guaranteed at least Europa League football next season. With 19 goals in Ligue 1 this year, he is second only to Kylian Mbappé in scoring. Surely, that big move has to be made.

🤝 Pacific FC and Vfl Bochum partner up. CPL club Pacific FC and Bundesliga club Vfl Bochum have partnered on a strategic development plan. Both clubs will share resources and expertise on and off the pitch. Notably, both clubs will consult each other on transfers, player development, coaching, business, marketing, improving fan experiences, and player exchanges. This is a smart move as it brings Pacific FC closer to one of the top footballing nations in the world, Germany. We rate this alliance, and CPL clubs should take note, especially Valour.

🧤 New goalkeeper for CanMNT? Bordeaux and CanMNT U20 goalkeeper Grégoire Swiderski is expected to be called up by the senior team for Canada’s friendlies against the Netherlands and France on June 6th and 9th, respectively. This is a good way for CanMNT to assess Swiderski’s ability at the senior level properly. However, the question is, should CanMNT focus on established talents such as Crépeau, Sirois, McGill, and St. Clair? These are four quality keepers with senior experience. However, having Grégoire Swiderski as an option is not a bad idea.

Photo: CanMNT Bible

🏟️ Kelowna is getting a CPL game, and a good one, too. Vancouver FC are to play Cavalry FC in the Okanagan Valley. The CPL has announced an “On Tour” series where they take league games to prospective markets. In other words, this is the CPL’s bringing the league to fans without a club and also to see if these are viable markets. Kelowna will likely be the next city to have a CPL club.

🔨 Forge held MTL to a draw. It’s 11 AM on a Tuesday. Many supporters believe these kids should be in school and have the nighttime game. Of course, we worry about their education and future. This matchup, or the Choinière Darby, was a competitive game. The former Montréal Impact player, David Choinière, scored the first goal, with Bryce Duke levelling the game in the second half. Alessandro Biello made his first professional debut for CFM. The first leg game ended 1-1 at full time.

🌊 The Whitecaps defeated Cavalry. The Caps travelled over the Rockies to play Cavalry at ATCO Field. With both sides playing counter-attacking football, it was a worthwhile matchup. This was a game that Levonte Johnson was going to remember. He scored the first goal with a banger in the first half and doubled up in the 79th minute. In the second half, Malcolm Shaw scored a calm goal late into stoppage time. The game ended 2-1 for the Whitecaps.

🫤 Meanwhile, the Atletico Ottawa and Pacific matchup did not match the excitement of the previous game. It was a tight affair, ending 0-0 at full-time. Maxim Tissot’s free-kick hitting the crossbar was one of the match's biggest moments. Otherwise, not much happened in this game, but with the talent on both sides, we anticipate the second leg to be fiery.

😳 Big drama at BMO. NYCFC visited TFC and dispatched a performance that exposed their defence. Despite almost mounting a full comeback, NYCFC won 3-2. The drama of the game occurred after full-time. First, Federico Bernadeschi picked up a second yellow for dissent, which led to a red. Then, there was a scuffle between both teams, with Sean Johnson and Strahinja Tanasijević in the middle.

🌊 The Whitecaps travelled to conference rivals LAFC. It’s been a rough weekend for Canadian clubs in MLS. Yohei Takaoka is emerging as Vancouver’s most important defensive player. Despite conceding three goals, the number of saves he’s made in the first half is worthy of praise. Otherwise, LAFC was too much for the Caps. In particular, Denis Bouanga was balling out of control. He was the main threat as he assisted all three goals and was an absolute terror on the wing. LAFC defeated the Whitecaps 3-0.

🤕 Things are not going well for Valour—six matches, six losses, three goals scored, and 20 goals conceded. Ouch. The Winnipeg club travelled to the GTA to take on York United. Things were looking up as Valour scored the first goal in the first half. Then, reality struck, and York United replied with three goals. All three goals came from defensive errors from Valour. The game ended 3-1.

🤷 Halifax are still winless. The best story in the league last year might have been the Halifax Wanderers, but they remain winless in the CPL through four matches. At least they picked up their first point of the season, with Giorgio Probo heading home a late equalizer. But a 1-1 draw at home with Cavalry has the Wanderers still searching for questions and still second bottom in the CPL.

0️⃣ Pacific & Forge go goalless. To be fair, both teams were evenly matched and took their chances on goal. But alas, nothing found its way to the back of the net, resulting in a 0-0 draw. However, the biggest drama of the match was Reon Moore’s red card. The reason? Supposedly for time-wasting wasting, but that seems way harsh. At the very max, it should be yellow, but even that would feel slightly harsh.

🦅 Another Ontario team travelled to BC. Vancouver FC hosted Atletico Ottawa in Langley. The first half was competitive as both sides could not convert goals, with Ottleti having the best chances. The second half was exciting as VFC’s Anthony White took one too many touches with the ball and turned it over for an Ottawa goal. However, in the 67th minute, Alejandro Diaz equalizes with a thumping header. The game ended 1-1. One note from the game we want to emphasize: Ballou Tabla, Ruben Del Campo and Ollie Basset are a scary trio.

Northern Picks

This week's picks come from Soraya El-houni. Soraya is a former varsity soccer player and is now a writer, personal trainer, shopping addict and regular contributor to DARBY Magazine. 

📺 What to watch

I remember being very surprised when Stephanie Labbé announced her retirement in 2022. So, I was intrigued when I heard about her new documentary Shut Out, which follows Labbe's football and mental health journey from her childhood to her Olympic gold to her current work with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Project 8, Canada's new women's professional soccer league. The documentary details the pressures and uncertainty of being a professional athlete, the lack of opportunities for women in football, and the steps that she's taking to move the women's game forward in North America. Give it a watch here.

🎧 What to listen to

I love Dua Lipa's music, Instagram, fits, vacations, vibes, etc., so I will be listening to her new album, Radical Optimism.

🛍️ What to buy

I didn't get my hands on the Bode x Nike collaboration—it's now completely sold out—but I am on a mission to get their Astro Grabber, a re-released and re-imagined Nike shoe from the 1970s and one of their mesh jersey tops.

Who to follow

@sydneyleroux is a Canadian-born footballer who plays for the USWNT and Angel City FC in the NWSL. She is a World Cup winner, Olympic gold medalist, and mother of two. Her account perfectly balances football, fashion, family, and comedy. Sydney is your girl if you want a laugh AND real insight into a professional footballer's life. Bonus: She just released episode one of the BFFR Show, an unfiltered straight-to-IG production with her teammate Ali Riley that gives us a deep dive into the thoughts and lives of the Angel City players.

You can follow Soraya on Instagram here.