The Club de Foot Montreal aims to change its image and find its identity

New branding, new head coach and eight new players bring hopes that the upcoming season will be better than the last one

The Club de Foot (CF) Montreal has signed eight players this off-season, the greatest number of contracts given by the club since 2015. That year, the team made it to the Concacaf Champions League final. So, what can fans, players, and coaches expect for the upcoming season?

Let’s start by remembering what happened in 2015: the club started its season with seven new players on the starting lineup, and made it to the Champions League final and the Major League Soccer (MLS) quarter-finals. This season was arguably the greatest campaign since the club joined the MLS in 2012.

Compared to 2015, last season is one to forget for CF Montreal fans. Their favourite club was eliminated from the Champions League, finished ninth in the MLS Eastern Conference. Fortunately, the club drastically changed over the winter, in all ways possible.

The club changed its name and logo, Head Coach Thierry Henry left his coaching duties for family reasons and has been replaced by Wilfred Nancy, and eight new players have been signed to the team.

The 2021 season starts on April 17, with the team facing a lot of uncertainty. The lineup that finished last year on the pitch is expected to be very different from the one that will start this season. From the eight new players, four came from free transfers (Zorhan Bassong, Erik Hurtado, Bjørn Johnsen, and Aljaž Struna), two came on loan (Ahmed Hamdi and Joaquín Torres) and two were bought in exchange for allocation sums (Djordje Mihailovic and Kamal Miller).

From all those athletes, two names drew a lot of attention from the media. Mihailovic and Johnsen are the two players raising the most hope for this upcoming season. Mihailovic is a 22-year-old offensive midfielder who played for the Chicago Fire last season. His success will depend on his capacity to work with Samuel Piette and Victor Wanyama to create a solid central midfield. Johnsen is a tall and muscular striker. Last season, he played for Ulsan Hyundai in South Korea. He has a game volume similar to Jozy Altidore.

Since Ignacio Piatti left in January 2020, the club has been searching for a player who is able to regularly create goal opportunities. Mihailovic will probably play as a number 10 behind Johnsen. This offensive duo could become the best attack the club has had since Piatti and Didier Drogba.

So which Montreal FC players can expect to start the season on the field? Clément Diop will surely be the starting keeper, as there is very little competition for his spot. From left to right, the defensive line should be composed of Mustafa Kizza, Luis Binks, Struna, and Zachary Brault-Guillard. MFC should align two defensive midfielders, Piette and Wanyama. The two wingers should be Romell Quioto and Lassi Lappalainen. The offensive midfielder will surely be Mihailovic and the striker should be Johnsen. Whatever the lineup may be, fans can look forward to an exciting season like they haven’t seen in quite some time.


Should the NBA postpone the 2020–21 season?

From safety to finances, fans wonder about the fate of the NBA’s season

A hotly contested topic among National Basketball Association (NBA) fans is whether or not the season should be postponed due to the large number of players being infected with COVID-19. Pushing through the remainder of the season will result in the league generating more income, allowing its players to continue as normal. However, there are safety concerns, as many players have caught the virus on and off the court.

First, one must consider the health implications this may have on the players. Players have caught COVID-19 from other teams across the league, and eventually one of these cases may lead to a player getting really sick. Also, due to the condensed season schedule, more players are playing back-to-back sets, meaning players are getting injured more frequently.

Some matches have also been completely one-sided since some teams had to play with less players due to quarantine protocols and an increase in injuries. Notably, the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat have recently played games with only eight players instead of the usual 15 that teams can dress on any given night due to a combination of injuries and COVID-19 protocols. The 76ers in particular only had seven players because they activated Mike Scott from the injured reserve a game early in order to have the minimum requirement of eight players in their game.

It is unfair to teams who just so happened to have a player catch the virus, especially if all their players were following the NBA protocols correctly. The league should consider postponing games more often to level the playing field, because being unlucky with COVID-19 cases for a small period could derail a team’s playoff hopes.

Oftentimes, a player tests positive for the virus, and since they have been in contact with the other players on the roster, some of those contacts must also enter a mandatory quarantine.

The Heat, for example, had an even record before losing a large portion of their roster to the pandemic protocols and since have had a record of 2-3, including a devastating 120-100 loss to the last-place Detroit Pistons. Some games were postponed for the team, but they are still missing some of their most important players and have had to go into some games shorthanded.

Financially, however, it makes sense to push through the season. By doing so, the league may be able to recuperate some of the lost income they accrued by not being able to have fans in most arenas.

A significant portion of the league’s revenue is generated through hosting games in arenas around North America, which means the league is now relying on television ratings and NBA League Pass subscriptions for their revenues. Television revenues in all sports have been in decline for various reasons; for example, some leagues chose to have some early kickoff times while the majority of at-home spectators had work. As well, during prime time this year due to the pandemic, there was a period of time when the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL all had games. Usually, only two or three of these leagues are occurring at the same time, therefore people had to pick and choose which sport to watch on a given night.

Also, doing this would allow the league to keep player salaries and the salary cap consistent. If players’ salaries end up being affected by the pandemic, players may go on strike and a lockout situation may be initiated, like we have seen previously in the NHL and other sports leagues.

The NBA has rules in place which should be able to mitigate the spread of the virus amongst its players. However, there have been issues with players obeying the rules. Players such as James Harden and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets have been known to go to bars and clubs, even though league rules specifically state to avoid these locations.

Postponing the NBA season would create more complications in terms of league finances and player salaries, but perhaps postponement is still the best option, as it might save some upcoming problems. There are strong cases on either side of the issue, and it is important to weigh the costs versus the benefits of such a move.

A small shutdown for a couple of weeks may help to get the players who are currently quarantined under the NBA’s health and safety protocols virus-free, but as long as COVID-19 is still impacting North America, the league will likely not be able to get back to normal.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


Soccer without fans is a different game

Without spectators, the home advantage loses most of its sense

COVID-19 brought all kinds of new protocols and season rearrangements to sports leagues and associations. One of the most drastic changes for those resuming their season amidst the pandemic might be the absence of fans in the stands.

Head coach of both Concordia Stingers soccer teams Greg Sutton said players always want to do well, and having fans to watch them play makes players push themselves harder.

“I think when you add family, friends, or even students in the stands, players want to impress [more],” Sutton said. “It’s only natural, as they simply want to do well in front of others. It makes a difference for sure. It’s also an extra motivation when times are a little bit more challenging.”

Sutton added that he thinks teams playing in front of their own fans have a better chance to win, and that’s something that will never change.

“Let’s think about an important game at the end of a season, in which you know you need the victory,” Sutton said. “You want that big intimidating crowd on your side, not against you. It can be difficult to play visiting stadiums with loud crowds. There’s no such thing as the home crowd advantage. Even if you’re playing in your own stadium, it’s much less of an advantage without fans.”

Concerning the experience of playing inside what we call the “bubble,” which asks team members to avoid contact with anyone outside their team, Sutton said the challenge of playing without fans is even greater for first-year players.

“It’s a lot about the young players, who haven’t really had that experience of playing in front of fans at that level,” Sutton said. “First-year players playing their first games with their team this year … are yet to experience a game with fans of that magnitude. It would be more challenging for them, but of course also for the senior players because it’s much more enjoyable to play in front of your fans.”

Sutton said that playing well in such circumstances also depends on your professional experience. He explained that players who have been on professional teams for long enough understand the level it takes to be successful on a regular basis, even if this time they’re not playing in regular conditions. For the head coach, it’s imperative to find that extra motivation when there’s no fans.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam

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