A Tale of Two Halves

FC Montreal Head Coach Philippe Eullaffroy Offers Season Postmortem at Caserne Letourneux Training Centre

  • FC Montreal finished their first season in the USL with an 8-16-4 record. The team played its best near the midway point of the season, where they won six out of eight games, but ultimately didn’t do enough to make the postseason. Photo Matt Garies

There were two sides to FC Montreal’s inaugural season in the United Soccer League. After his two-week stint in Europe where he attended coaching clinics in Clairefontaine, France and Alkmaar, Netherlands, head coach Philippe Eullaffroy conveyed the media to make his first ever FC Montreal season post-mortem.

“There are two points of view: The first one is as a competitor, it was not a very good season obviously because the results weren’t there even if the second part of the season was much better,” said Eullaffroy. “On the development point of view, it was a positive season because the players improved a lot from last march to the end of the season in September. Also, because the second part of the season was much better in terms of results, it shows that the players improved a lot.”

FC Montreal finished their first season in the USL with an 8-16-4 record. The team played its best near the midway point of the season, where they won six out of eight games, but ultimately didn’t do enough to make the postseason.

The buzzword of this season was improvement. For the first time, the Montreal Impact Academy had a true final step where players could cut their teeth before stepping into Major League Soccer. As good as it sounds, adapting was difficult in the first two or three months. It was a new league and a new reality for the young players but it was also a new system for the coaching staff.

“We didn’t know the league either, we discovered it just like the players. We had to adapt in our level of requirements but our adjustments were largely facilitated by the level of play in USL and the teams that we played against,” said Eullaffroy. “That let our guys become more concentrated on the task and to know exactly where to go if they want to survive and live at this level.”

After his two-week stint in Europe where he attended coaching clinics in Clairefontaine, France and Alkmaar, Netherlands, head coach Philippe Eullaffroy conveyed the media to make his first ever FC Montreal season post-mortem. Photo Tristan D’Amours

Eullaffroy, who is also the director of the Montreal Impact academy, wants all of his young players to remember one thing from FC Montreal’s first season: how difficult it was. The team’s season sends a message to the younger players but is also a blessing to the first-team who can now see things differently.

“You could be dominant with the U18s, finish third in North America, but the step is still very high simply for FC Montreal so imagine if you go from U18s to MLS. We can now better understand how the Max Tissots, the Wandrille Lefèvres, and the [Anthony] Jackson-Hamels could suffer from not having known this intermediate stage,” said Eullaffroy. “It’s good to dominate in your age group but you should not lose sight of the final objective which is going pro and doing well with the pros, not simply being a number.”

What if the players that hear this message get discouraged? Eullaffroy— who has a Ph.D. in environmental toxicology—simply answered that those players were not ready to make it to the next level.

“I always said that Charles Darwin was a soccer coach. The natural selection is there and if they are not ready to suffer and work harder to reach MLS level, they are not made for this job.”

“I always said that Charles Darwin was a soccer coach. The natural selection is there and if they are not ready to suffer and work harder to reach MLS level, they are not made for this job.”

As for his player of the year, Eullaffroy went for the team’s top scorer Alessandro Riggi who he nicknamed The Little One.

“He proved a lot from March to September. He scored nine goals and had a real influence on the game, offensively speaking, in the second part of the season.”

Looking forward to next season, the Frenchman hinted that the expectations and goals will be higher in 2016. The team will no longer have an expansion tag and most players will have had a taste of professional soccer.

“We should build on [this season’s performance] and next year, and it’s obvious, we will not fight from the bottom but from two or three steps above that,” said Eullaffroy. “The future is bright and results will be more and more important next year because we don’t have the excuse that we have players that didn’t know about the level, even the coaching staff. Now at least half of the team will have a year of experience at this level.”

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