MONTREAL – CF Montreal’s training camp for the 2022 Major League Soccer season opened Wednesday with continuity, and with much higher expectations than last year.
At least that’s what Quebec midfielder Samuel Piette claims, after a tumultuous 2021 season during which there was a chaotic overhaul of the club’s image and the surprise departure of head coach Thierry. Henry.
“We laid a very good foundation last year. It was Wilfried Nancy’s first season, and I think we’ve had some success with him. We just need to improve on what we did last year. Granted, we lost (Rudy) Camacho, but got Alistair (Johnston), who was doing really well with Nashville. Also, the chemistry was good last year, but I believe it will be even better this season. We know each other a lot better than at the same time last year. It’s promising, and I can’t wait for the season to start, ”Piette explained by videoconference on Wednesday.
Thus, less than two months after putting a balm at the end of the heartbreaking season by winning the Canadian Soccer Championship against their great rivals Toronto FC, the players of CF Montreal set foot on the synthetic turf of the Olympic Stadium while a fine snow fell on Montreal at the same time.
“Our goals could have changed if we had made the playoffs last year, and if we had had a short run in the playoffs. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to say that we want to win the MLS Cup this season, but I think first and foremost we have to focus on the goal of making the playoffs, ”said the 27-year-old. .
About thirty players presented themselves to head coach Wilfried Nancy, including three members of the Academy. These players are winger / striker Jérémie Omeonga, winger Gabriel Antinoro and midfielder Matteo Schiavoni invited for tryouts.
Piette was also very proud to see that 15 of the 30 players under contract were of Quebec origin at the camp. A dream come true for the veteran.
“Having so many Canadians, and Quebeckers, is a very good thing. It is a source of pride for me, a Quebecer who comes from the market place and who sees his compatriots on the ground with him. It’s a great thing, and a great philosophy for the club. I am very proud of it, by the way, ”he confided.
After an initial day devoted to medical tests, and another to physical tests, the first training session began on Wednesday at the Olympic Stadium. The camp will continue until January 27.
“I think everyone is happy to be back. We had a good offseason, but not too long compared to previous seasons, Piette recalled. Everyone seemed in a good mood, the atmosphere was very good and it went very well for a first training. «
Nancy’s MLS season kicks off February 27 in Orlando. The local opening is scheduled to take place on March 5, at Olympic Stadium, facing the Philadelphia Union.
A different defense
The defensive line will show a different face, however, as Rudy Camacho, crowned CF Montreal defensive player of the year in 2021, and Kiki Struna, are not back.
Camacho’s contract expired at the end of the calendar and the two clans failed to strike a deal. As for Struna, sporting director Olivier Renard has chosen not to exercise the option in his contract.
To replace them, CF Montreal announced the acquisition, in early December, of Italian defender Gabriele Corbo on loan from FC Bologna for the 2022 season.
Then, just after Christmas, CF Montreal got their hands on Canadian international Alistair Johnston of Nashville SC, a 23-year-old defenseman to whom he signed a two-year contract to which were added two years of options. .
But regardless, defender Joel Waterman is confident the defensive front will live up to expectations this season.
“Yes, we lost some important pieces. Our style of play is very demanding, and whoever replaces him (Camacho) will have to dictate the pace, and cover the outer flanks when Kamal (Miller) and I choose to support the attack. It will be difficult to replace him, but I believe we have the necessary manpower to do it, ”said Waterman.
“The arrival of Alistair was therefore crucial, and although I still do not know what our defense will look like this season. You know, that’s the nature of ‘business’, every year we lose guys and we win new guys. We will do everything to be as dynamic and to be as effective on defense, ”he concluded.
CF Montreal’s training camp will continue at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday.