FC Montreal Feature - www.impactmontreal.com
Monday, September 28, 2015
MONTREAL - In 2015, the Montreal Impact rediscovered the USL with FC Montreal, the club’s second team and final destination before MLS.
For most of the players on the team, it was a first experience in a professional soccer sphere. That reality hit hard over the first few months of the season.
“This difficult reality of playing against professional players, we saw it in the first three months,” said head coach Philippe Eullaffroy.
Step by step, players gained experience, progressed and started winning. In the middle of the season, FC Montreal became the form team in the league after a series of six wins in eight games.
“It’s a mixed review,” added Eullaffroy. “As a competitor, you can’t be happy with the results we saw on the field. The second part of the season was much better. If we only take that into consideration, we would have finished in fourth place, which is significant.”
The season review changes when keeping in mind that the concept that the team is in place as a development tool. As wins arrived in the second half of the season, the team's progress overall was clearly evident.
“On a development perspective, we can be satisfied because we saw progress,” said Eullaffroy. “Our good record in the second part of the season would have us in the playoffs if we played that same way all season long. This means the players progressed, they got better.”
Overall, nine players topped 1,260 minutes of action in the USL this season, including leading scorer Alessandro Riggi (9G, 2A). In addition, 12 players made more than 10 starts over the course of the season, among them standout goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who was one of four players that played for the side who earned selection to Canada's U23 Olympic Qualifying Team that will kick off its quest to reach Rio this week.
That leads to a clear conclusion when reviewing the club's inaugural USL season: A USL team will contribute to the progress of the Academy players, to help them not only get a chance to eventually play in MLS, but be good when they do.
“It’s clear that without the USL, players would have to make the jump to MLS before facing professional players," Eullaffroy said. "This part will already be done [with FC Montreal]. When they eventually integrate with the pro team in MLS, they will already be professional players and they will have this experience of playing against more experienced players. They will be able to express their qualities as soon as they get called to the first team.”
The step up to MLS is a big one. You have to pass through the U18s and then FC Montreal, which is a tough step in its own right, before joining the first team.
“You can be dominant with the U18s and be first in the regular [USSFDA] season, but the gap is huge for FC Montreal, so imagine passing from the U18s straight to MLS," Eullaffroy said. "It means that it’s good to be dominant in your age group, but never forget that the final goal is to be with the pros and be good with the pros, to be someone who can express himself as soon as you get with the first team.”
FC Montreal finished the season with an 8-16-4 record, in 10th position in the Eastern Conference. During the season, the team, which was already the youngest in the league, integrated eight U18 players who signed with the team.
The 2016 season will start once again with one of the youngest groups in the league, but the experience gained in 2015 should help them start the season on the right foot.