MLS NEXT - Week 1: Contrasting starts for the Academy

CF Montréal Academy’s U15 and U17 teams hosted the New England Revolution last Sunday at Centre Nutrilait for their opening games of the 2022-2023 MLS NEXT season. A mixed Sunday under the rain started with a 0-3 defeat for the U17s before a nice 4-1 victory for the U15s.

U17: A harsh result

Head coach Maxime Leconte lined up a 1-4-2-3-1 formation with two offensive players who were making their first start in MLS NEXT: Sébastien Udell Joseph and Marc-Alexandre Happi Emaga. After a timid start against an opponent who was already playing its second game, Montreal gradually responded and then imposed their game. Captain Alessandro Biello took an opportunistic corner in the box and saw his shot saved on the goal line by a defender after a poor clearance by the keeper (15th).

The turning point of the match came after thirty-three minutes with a straight red card. Even reduced by one player, the U17 team defended well and the half-time break did not stop this momentum. On one of their many long balls, the New England Revolution finally beat goalkeeper Ewan Derrien-Lairet, who made multiple saves (56th) before that. CF Montréal conceded two more goals late in the game due to fatigue.

"Obviously, it's disappointing to lose our first game at home. The schedule works for usvery well, because we can take these 3 points against New England next week on the road," said captain Alessandro Biello. “We were good on the ball in the first half but the red card hurt us a lot. In the second half, we gave up the first goal too early and we started getting frustrated with the refereeing and ourselves. We need to fight harder for each other, be willing to suffer together."

Head coach Maxime Leconte is keen to be positive despite this opening defeat: "Despite the red card, I think we were solid. We showed a very good team spirit and solidarity. Between the red card and the first goal, we were good on the ball. We tried to come back, so we changed our system and we opened the game, which explains the two goals at the end. We need to control our emotions better and have more composure in both the strong and weak moments.

U15: a successful first

The U15s also had a tough challenge against their opponents from New England with the rain getting heavier throughout the game. Head coach Esteban Landazabal's boys lined up in a 1-3-4-3 formation with three first-timers: Alexandre Drepin, Josh Nteziryayo and Eliott Germain-Aubrey. Their success was mainly had in the first half, despite the early goal by the American team with a nice shot from distance that ended in Jean-Christophe Belzile's net (16th).

This was not enough to demoralize Montreal, who resumed their domination. Laurent Santana was very dynamic in offense with his dribbling, and a defender scored in his own goal (25th) for the equalizer. Captain Thomas Monnin then followed up on Owen Graham-Roache's shot against the post to give his team the lead (37th). The striker also scored a goal of his own just before half-time, volleying in a cross from Eliott Germain-Aubrey, unstoppable on his left flank.

The second half saw the weather conditions deteriorate making the game less technical and more physical. But the U15 side was up to the task.

"I am very happy with the team, we performed very well and respected the coach's instructions. We have to keep this focus, and avoid thinking that it’ll be easy in the next games," said captain Thomas Monnin, who scored for the first time in MLS NEXT. “We’re very proud that our hard work was rewarded, and I hope that it will continue for me and my teammates this season."

"I'm happy even if there is still a lot of progress to be made on some details," analyzes head coach Esteban Landazabal. “Not everything is perfect, but I told the players that the fighting spirit and the perseverance were there. When we were leading 3-1, we pressed them as if the score was reversed. That's how we scored the fourth goal at the end. I can't wait to see what happens next."

Our Academy will take the road next weekend. First stop in New England on Saturday where they face the New England Revolution again but away. The next day, they will meet FC Westchester in New York state.