CF Montreal equaled the all-time MLS record on Saturday night with their sixth straight road win, a mark held only by the San Jose Earthquakes. What explains this?
The Impact’s record on the road (10-4-2) largely explains the team’s success in the standings in the East.
During training camp, Wilfried Nancy explained to us that he wanted his team to play the same way at home as on the road. It’s all well and good to say it, he was not the first coach to speak like this. I heard it, but quite honestly, I didn’t believe it.
In MLS, there has always been this mentality that you have to win and put on a show at home in front of your fans, and try not to lose when you play on the road.
I have often wondered why. No one was really able to give me a clear answer. Still, at the time, with long commercial flights, compressed schedules and only three changes, it still made sense. The journeys were long and grueling and it became impossible for the players to perform as well on the road as they did at home.
Change this perception
Nancy was the first to realize that these realities no longer exist, and that this way of thinking is over. With chartered flights, the schedule which has become more spaced out again and the five changes available to it, there was no longer any excuse: you had to start putting the pedal to the metal, even on the road.
CF Montreal is excellent on the counter-attack, and Nancy knows it very well. Given that for many MLS teams, the mentality has not changed, Nancy realized that there was, for her team, a blow to play.
When the home teams were going to start opening play, rather than asking his players to defend, he was going to ask them to attack! Anyway, parking the bus has never been the Impact’s forte.
Normally home teams expect the away team to play for a draw and close the game. Nancy does the opposite, he hits them where it hurts. When they least expect it…
They want to put on a show for their supporters, and that’s when the CFM becomes the most dangerous. They have punished their opponents time and again this season this way. The strategy works!
Clearly, there will eventually be an adjustment. Teams will know what to expect when CF Montreal comes to their city. This was the case Saturday in New England where the Revs hesitated to open the game against Montreal. But at the end of the match, they had no choice, they needed the three points. A 0-0 draw was not enough for them. Montreal took the opportunity to score the game’s only goal.
In a league, teams will often try to copy the model of other successful formations. Surely other MLS clubs will look at this strategy thinking they can do the same. It could happen next year. Meanwhile, Nancy will have been the first to detect the flaw in the system. He will have been responsible for a drastic change in philosophies in this league which had operated in the same way for ages.
And for that you have to give him credit.