Laurent Courtois became obsessed with getting the CF Montréal coach job

“There is a lot of potential here,” he says. “Montreal is special.”

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As a recent winner with a knack for developing young players, Laurent Courtois was the right person CF Montréal was looking for their next head coach.

“Laurent ticked all the boxes we were looking for,” president and CEO Gabriel Gervais said Tuesday at the Montreal training center. “For us, his desire to be part of this project, his philosophy, his way of doing things, his experience with young players was very important. “We have our number one person.”

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Courtois, from Lyon, France, also speaks French.

The 45-year-old was introduced as Montreal head coach on Tuesday after two seasons of overseeing the Columbus Crew’s reserve team. He replaces Hernán Losada, who was fired in November after a year on the job.

Courtois arrives in Montreal with some achievements under his belt. Columbus Crew 2 won Major League Soccer’s Next Pro title in 2022 and reached the final last year under his direction.

He was also noted for developing young talent in Columbus by helping Canadian internationals Mo Farsi and Jacen Russell-Rowe, among others, graduate from the second team to the first team.

Now he’s ready for a new challenge in Montreal and is excited about the possibilities.

“It’s almost a dream I have as an adult,” Courtois said. “As soon as I set foot here, as soon as I started talking to people, it became an obsession for me.

“I think we have all the ingredients for an incredible success story in the medium and long term, and we will do everything possible to make it in the short term.”

The head coaching position in Montreal has been a revolving door, and Courtois is now the 10th person to take on the role since the club entered MLS in 2012.

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Prior to Losada, Wilfried Nancy left Montreal to become the Crew’s first-team head coach this past offseason.

Nancy helped Montreal set franchise records for wins and points in 2022. Earlier in the season, she formally requested to leave the club after a verbal altercation with owner Joey Saputo.

After joking that he mainly talks to Nancy about Spotify playlists because they share a love of Creole music, Courtois addressed Nancy’s unceremonious exit.

“I don’t care, (Nancy) doesn’t care, no one cares (what happened). (It’s about) what are you going to do today?” Courtois said. “He told me, ‘This is great for you, buckle up and enjoy the ride.'”

When asked if he planned to reverse a trend and remain in office long-term, Courtois preferred to focus on his two-year term.

“I’m here to do a project. “I have been entrusted with a mission,” she said. “Talking about the future and longevity is pretentious.

“I hope the players, the club and everyone help each other develop the best version that Montreal can be this year and next, we’ll see the rest.”

Last season, Montreal finished with a 12-17-5 record, including a 2-13-2 performance on the road, and missed the playoff cut line by two points.

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Montreal vice-president and sporting director Olivier Renard, who was absent Tuesday for personal reasons, said his decision to fire Losada had more to do with how the team played and how the players developed than with missing the postseason.

Montreal has plenty of youth on its roster, including midfielders Nathan Saliba (19), Bryce Duke (22) and Mathieu Choinière (24), and goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois (22), and is relying on academy players to break into the first team and contribute.

“What I want to emphasize is the individual development of the players, 100 percent,” Courtois said. “Especially with that group of players.”

Courtois also wants a team that plays with heart, whether in training or in the match. It’s something that was missing from Montreal metal last year, especially on the road.

“Heart, energy, combativeness, call it what you want,” he said. “What I want is for the boys and the fans to see that we have a common goal, and that is to give everything.”

Laurent Courtois and Gabriel Gervais hold a CF Montréal scarf while smiling at a press conference.
CF Montréal president Gabriel Gervais (left) says he wants Laurent Courtois (right) to lead the club to the MLS playoffs and win the Canadian championship. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

In terms of concrete goals, Gervais said Montreal management wants the club to reach the playoffs and have a chance to fight for the MLS Cup, as well as win the Canadian Championship and return to the CONCACAF Champions League in the Courtois’ first season.

Courtois’ coaching staff will be announced later, the club said on Monday. The first-year MLS head coach said he intends to keep some of the same staff.

Montreal begins training camp with medical and physical testing on Saturday and Sunday, before traveling to Tucson, Arizona, to train until January 28.

The club will return to Montreal from January 30 to February 4 and will finish its preseason in Florida. Montreal then begins its season at Orlando SC on February 24. The first home game at Stade Saputo won’t be until April 13 against FC Cincinnati.

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