A look into the CF Montréal season

CF Montreal faces key roster and staff changes while embracing the Messi effect

The Saputo Stadium, where the CF Montréal plays. Graphic Myriam Ouazzani

CF Montreal kicked off the Major League Soccer (MLS) season with a draw on Feb. 24 in Orlando.

While the team is still recovering from a difficult season last year, fans are remaining engaged and season passes are sold for the first time since 2012, most likely due to the Messi effect.

Last season was complicated for the club. CF Montréal finished tenth place and missed the playoffs by three points.

Roster and coaching changes

This off-season, the transfer market has been busy for the Canadian club. A few players found their way out, but most of the core team players remain. Nonetheless, the most remarkable transfer for the club this season is not a departure.

Undoubtedly, the arrival of Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez from Inter Miami CF marks a huge hit. The 2019 Leagues Cup winner and MLS All-Star arrived as a free agent on a one-year contract. Montréal is an offensive team, but none of the younger attackers this season such as Kwadwo Opoku or Chinonso Offor, who is now on loan to Bulgarian club Arda Kardzhali, managed to consistently score. The addition of the experienced MLS striker could make him an example for the forwards of the team.

The team has also seen some leadership changes, with Laurent Courtois replacing Hernan Losada as head coach.  

Courtois is a well-known name in the early 2000s French soccer era. He notably played for French Ligue 1 clubs Olympique Lyonnais, Ajaccio and Toulouse, but his MLS experience with Chivas USA and LA Galaxy is what makes him a good fit for the job. 

Amid transfer season, four preparatory games awaited the seemingly motivated players. Unfortunately, they fell short, tying up their first preparatory match against Minnesota United FC and losing their three following matches.

The most notable goalscorer is new midfielder Dominik Yankov, who looks promising for the club’s midfield, coupled by yet again a good performance from midfielder Nathan Saliba.

Ticket price controversy

This pre-season was outshadowed by the club increasing its ticket prices for specific matches. Compared to the usual $40 for matches against any other club, the price tag against Inter Miami, the club where Lionel Messi plays, is significantly higher; some of the lowest prices are above $350. 

Added to a not-so-welcomed 6-Match Pack including a match against Inter Miami for the smallest fee of $600. To many fans, it was clear the MLSwas capitalizing on Messi’s arrival to the detriment of fans.

When seeing that the club planned to sell their section’s seat for $449 plus tax, CF Montréal official fan group 1642MTL reacted on social media.  

“The group is of the opinion that this price hike is extreme, and that it limits access to the match for dedicated supporters that encourage the club match after match, regardless of club record, year after year,” said the statement, originally written in French.

As per their complain, 1642MTL is worried that some less devoted fans who can afford the price tag might not know the risk of a supporters-only zone, which is often loud and agitated.

These prices hikes also raise bigger issues than simply financial. The Saputo Stadium is likely to get flooded with Messi and Suarez fans during the Inter Miami match, instead of the club’s local and loyal supporters who cannot afford to go. Obviously, high demand equals high prices, and seeing Messi in action is something every soccer fan dreams of. But to 1642MTL, it feels like the club is capitalising off of it, while turning their backs on supporters.

“The club made the choice to put profits before loyalty, and that’s regrettable,” said Simon Carignan, 1642MTL coordinator, on Instagram.

Despite CF Montréal’s ticket price controversies and difficult pre-season, a nonetheless interesting transfer window and the dawn of a new coach promises for an engaging season ahead.