Wilfried Nancy could not have dreamed up a better start in his CF Montreal debut. The 44-year-old made the most of his opportunity and kicked off his managerial reign with a convincing 4-2 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday.
Nancy spent the last 10 years with the club, before being thrust into the spotlight this offseason. A win against CF Montreal’s fiercest rival is always a good place to start.
“I am not surprised about what the team did, we have been working like this for a long time,” Nancy said. “We put all our emotion aside and stayed on task today. I am happy but this is our first game.”
CF Montreal was extremely proactive this offseason, with Djordje Mihailovic’s arrival headlining the side’s acquisitions. The 22-year-old did not disappoint in his debut, pulling all the right strings in the middle of the park.
Deployed behind Romell Quioto and Mason Toye, Mihailovic was a constant livewire in possession, driving play forward at will. The former Chicago Fire midfielder capped off his impressive performance with a well-taken goal, gliding by Luke Singh for his side’s fourth.
CF Montreal entered the season with lots of skepticism surrounding the club, but Mihailovic is not worried about the critics.
“Like I was thinking about before if the media wants to say those things and they are so certain, why don’t they put their money where their mouth is and bet against us,” Mihailovic said. “As of right now, the confidence is through the roof, but we can’t let it get too high because we know it is just one game out of 34.”
CF Montreal secured Mihailovic for $800,000 in GAM this offseason and will be eager to see the 22-year-old take the next step in his career. Mihailovic will largely be tasked with providing the creative spark between the lines – something Nancy looks forward to.
“I am happy with his performance. The idea was to put him in situations to touch the ball often because he is creative,” Nancy said. “He is the type of player to accelerate or slow down the game. Today we saw the Djordje I know. It is only his first game and I know he can do better.”
Mason Toye opened his account for the season, registering his first goal in Montreal’s colors. The former Minnesota United man struggled to get going last season after making the switch, picking up just one assist in seven appearances.
Nancy rewarded Toye with a spot alongside Romell Quioto in the starting lineup on Saturday, and the 22-year-old did not disappoint. Toye buried his first sight of goal, curling his effort into the top corner past a helpless Alex Bono inside three minutes.
“That’s what you get paid to do as a striker, and when you score with your first touch of the game, it’s obviously a good thing,” said Toye. “Will (Nancy) has done a great job letting us know our roles and positioning and giving us the freedom to execute. It is early days, but it is definitely a big positive for us.”
Romell Quioto and Victor Wanyama also got in on the action in Fort Lauderdale, rounding off a dominant performance against Toronto FC. Chris Armas’s men were coming off an impressive two-legged victory over Club Leon in the CONCACAF Champions League but went into Saturday’s affair without Chris Mavinga, Jozy Altidore, and last season’s MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo.
CF Montreal took full advantage of the notable absences to kick off its season in the best possible way and claim an important three points. Rookie boss – Nancy – was happy to see his men impose their style of play, albeit against a short-handed TFC.
“This is our vision, we want to be aggressive. This is the way I believe we should play,” Nancy said. “We are all on the same page. We want to defend on the front foot. I’m happy because we have competition within the side. The fact that my team was able to show what they are capable of, this is my victory.”
CF Montreal will now shift its focus onto Nashville SC ahead of their game next Saturday. Gary Smith’s men took Major League Soccer by storm last year, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Despite the positive result, Nancy is not letting himself get too carried away.
“The critics will be positive today because we won,” Nancy said. “Maybe in 10 days, it’s going to be the opposite. We have to stay focused on our vision, this is what’s important.”
CF Montreal and its rookie manager hit the road next week, taking on Nashville SC at the Nissan Stadium. The club’s rebrand may have split opinions, but if the Canadian side keeps delivering on the pitch, the CF Montreal faithful will have little to complain about.