Despite shaky pre-season, CF Montréal confident heading into opener

“Results matter, but at the same time, we’re trying to adapt to a completely different style and create new habits,” Ariel Lassiter said.

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CF Montréal concluded its ramp-up for the season without winning a game, but in the eyes of head coach Laurent Courtois, that hasn’t stopped it from improving.

Obviously, when players take the field, they are always trying to win. In the current circumstances, however, the bleu-blanc-noir have turned their attention to another objective: picking up a new mindset and style of play.

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Hired at the beginning of January, Courtois has not had the luxury of working for months with his men. The pre-season matches therefore served as a real testing ground for him to put his principles into practice.

From an outsider’s perspective, Montreal’s 0-3-1 record would be enough to send fans into a panic ahead of the season opener in Orlando Saturday night. Results aside, the feeling within the team seems to be they are exactly where they should be in their process.

“The last thing I wanted was quiet, peaceful preparatory matches in terms of results. We believe we’re in the right place. We really experimented, especially in the last match. We weren’t looking for results. It was more a question of repeating positive actions and avoiding finding ourselves in negative situations. Those are the lessons we wanted to learn,” CF Montréal’s head coach said after training on Tuesday.

We’ll have to take him at his word, as only one match was broadcast, that against Atlanta United on Feb. 7. It wasn’t exactly a masterpiece either. During that match, fans could see how players were struggling to learn the new principles and get rid of old ones. This was also the case for the goalkeepers. Courtois wants to involve them in the construction of the attack, and sometimes this can lead to costly mistakes. However, the 45-year-old Frenchman believes that the more his players experience these situations in training and during matches, the better they’ll be able to make the right read.

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“You have to have clarity as a collective, be on the same wavelength and do the rehearsals that allow us to understand that we want this situation and not this one. It changes in half a second. That will be the key for us (with the ‘keepers). If they’re on the same wavelength and the execution is there, it will be very interesting,” Courtois said.

“Afterward, in a difficult situation, it’s whether we make the same mistake or whether it’s more the red flag that allows us to change the plan. It will be a learning process. I think soon we’ll have the right picture of the thing.”

At the press conference confirming Courtois’s hiring, club president and CEO Gabriel Gervais had hinted that he had found a head coach who adhered to the team’s desired style of play. In light of what has been said since the start of training camp, Courtois’s system of play seems malleable, and he wants his squad playing with confidence.

“We mustn’t fall into the trap of always trying to adhere to the system. There are times in a match when you have to abandon the game plan and just be a competitor. … For the players, the poor results of the pre-season are forgotten once the season gets underway. The important thing will be to keep progressing and remain dedicated to what the team is trying to build.

“We’re in a business where results matter, but at the same time, we’re trying to adapt to a completely different style and create new habits. The organization expects to win, but we can’t put too much pressure on ourselves, either. Every game has been a practice run for what we are trying to achieve, and our first real test will be on Saturday,” forward Ariel Lassiter said. Courtois announced on Tuesday that Samuel Piette, Joel Waterman and Victor Wanyama will be part of the group of captains and assistants for the season, but that he would like to expand this group to six players.

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