Ottawa Fury Partnership Signs FC Montreal’s Death Note

Fury Becomes Montreal Impact’s USL Affiliate, Will Send Younger Players

The conference room at Centre Nutrilait before the announcement of the Impact’s partnership with the Ottawa Fury. Photo Tristan D’Amours

It was a chilly Friday morning at Centre Nutrilait—the Montreal Impact’s training ground—but in a warm conference room, club president Joey Saputo announced the death of FC Montreal at the Impact’s 2016 post-mortem.

Relegating its United Soccer League team to the North American soccer graveyard, the Ottawa Fury will take the place of the USL affiliate club. Starting next season, Montreal Impact players that are either in need of playing time or coming back from injury, as well as young players, will spend time in our nation’s capital with the Fury.

The Fury, which recently moved down to the USL after uncertainties with their former home—the North American Soccer League—announced last month that they would move to the USL in 2017.

“We saw with FC Montreal in the past that there are a lot of players that were not getting closer,” said Saputo. “What we want to do is put more emphasis on players that have the potential with the under 18 team to transition faster to the first team while still having a reserve team in place with Ottawa for the players that we are maybe not 100 per cent sure.”

Saputo did not hide the fact that the financial aspects of running a team in the USL came into play when shutting FC Montreal’s doors.

“If we can use the same money we spend on FC Montreal at other places to develop players, that is what we looked at and we think that with the structure that we will put in place, we will be more efficient with the use of that money,” Saputo said.

“Yes, the day we announced [FC Montreal] was a right decision because it was the only opportunity we had. Other opportunities opened and we took the decision to change.” – Montreal Impact president, Joey Saputo.

What are these other places? The first is the Ottawa Fury. The team will take a number of players that according to the Impact’s technical director Adam Braz amounts to “as many players as we want.”

The second is through the team’s partnership with Bologna FC of Italy. The team, which Saputo also sits as club president, has seen young Impact players fly their way in the past year. The club states that more of them will have training stints in Italy from now on.

“If we look as a whole, when we started FC Montreal we didn’t think about the utility of Bologna to continue to develop players,” admitted Saputo.

Midfielder Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla is the most recent youngster to have spend some time with Bologna. Saputo stated that if Tabla had a European passport, he would have stayed with Bologna FC’s reserve team.

Finally, the third place where the Impact will concentrate is their under 18 team. This is where the team will sign players to homegrown MLS contracts from now on.

“With everything that we have, I think it’s more positive than negative that [FC Montreal] doesn’t exist anymore,” said Saputo. “With the u-18s coming up, with our partnership with Ottawa and Bologna, I think that we will be better positioned to continue to develop young players.”

Why FC Montreal Altogether?

If everything seems so positive with this move that may seem like a step back to soccer fans in Montreal, then why did the Impact create FC Montreal in the first place?

According to Saputo, the decision to enter the USL came down to the deal which MLS struck with the league. Every MLS team needed to either own a reserve team or make an association with one of the already existing teams.

“It was very difficult to associate ourselves with an American team because every time we had to send a player, we had the transfer window which made it more difficult,” said Saputo.

Players like defender Janouk Charbonneau now have their futures up in the air. Photo Tristan D’Amours

With the arrival of Ottawa, the only Canadian team in the USL without ownership from a Major League Soccer club, this opened the window for an association.

“Yes, the day we announced [FC Montreal] was a right decision because it was the only opportunity we had,” said Saputo. “Other opportunities opened and we took the decision to change.”

“There is nothing wrong in saying that this wasn’t done right or that this wasn’t the best decision.”

Tabla, alongside midfielders David Choinière and Louis Béland-Goyette, will come down as the only players to have signed MLS homegrown contract during their stay at FC Montreal. For the remainder of the team, it will be their decision to find another place to play with some looking at local leagues in Quebec and even across the ocean in Scandinavia.

Only six players have been invited to the Impact’s training camp: midfielders, Marco Dominguez and Alessandro Riggi, defenders, Aron Mkungilwa and Thomas Meilleur-Giguère, as well as goalkeepers, David Paulmin and James Pantemis.