From the Citadins of UQAM to the MLS champion team. From La Fontaine Park to the summit of North American soccer. The Crew of Wilfried Nancy, Mohamed Farsi and Rudy Camacho were crowned MLS champions on Saturday in Columbus, with a 2-1 victory against LAFC.
This team full of former Montrealers – goalkeeper Evan Bush is also part of it – completely dominated this final… until Denis Bouanga gave Los Angeles hope in the 74th minute.
In front of the Apple TV camera just after the final whistle, Nancy could not hold back her tears.
“They grew as players, yes,” he pointed out, his eyes puffy. But also as people. I told them that the word “impossible” is an opinion. It’s incredible ! »
Frenchman Nancy arrived in Quebec with an admission to UQAM to join the Citadins in 2005. Quebecer Farsi spent part of his youth playing soccer on the fields of La Fontaine Park. Rudy Camacho was an important cog in the CF Montreal defense between 2018 and 2023. Evan Bush still has Montreal in his heart after wearing the Impact colors for 10 years. All these beautiful people are now champions.
“We play our way,” said the former CF Montreal technician. I’m so proud. But for me, as a coach, it’s not about winning. I told them that they have wanted to win since they were young. The idea is to have a clear vision and create a connection as a team. »
This is indeed what he did with his Crew. Because yes, we expected Columbus to dominate the possession engagement… but maybe not as much. It was downright a football clinic that the locals offered LAFC, particularly at the start of the match.
“We didn’t play a good first half,” LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said. That was the story of the match. »
The Crew established a hell of a rhythm from the start, suffocating their opponent with a game resembling an offensive steamroller. He was rewarded with a penalty goal from the inevitable Cucho in the 32nd.
Then, four minutes later, the delight. Malte Amundsen, from the central circle, saw a gaping space in the Angeline defense. He sent a smooth pass towards the area, which Yaw Yeboah reached before sending the ball with the outside of his left foot behind Maxime Crépeau. Of rare beauty. It was 2-0 for Wilfried Nancy’s men in the 37th minute, and LAFC had barely touched the ball yet.
The best defense is offense, according to the old sports cliché. The Crew has made it their motto on the pitch. Even with his commanding two-goal lead, he continued to push forward. Because maybe that’s all he knows how to do.
On the other hand, LAFC never seemed to find their X during this final. In the rare moments when he took possession of the ball, he seemed confused, disjointed. Nothing was working.
“They played a fantastic match,” Cherundolo said. This is exactly how you have to play against LAFC if you want to beat us, which is to create enough moments that force us to make mistakes. »
The visitors regained momentum after the success of the season’s top scorer in the circuit, Denis Bouanga, at the end of the second half. But in front of their supporters, the Crew did not lose their concentration.
“I cried like a baby when the final whistle blew! », Launched a smiling Cucho Hernández at a press conference.
It was a third title in the Crew’s MLS history, following championships in 2008 and 2020. The team’s last two successes are particularly surprising: it was on the verge of moving in 2018, before an uprising supporters did not stop him.
A colleague pointed out the news to him during his press briefing. He gives a slight smile, but quickly takes on a serious look.
“I’m happy and I’m proud of it,” he said. There is a lot of work and courage behind that. But I’m not happy at the same time. Because it’s not normal.
“That’s something that needs to change. I know MLS is trying to do this. But it’s not just in MLS. There is skill everywhere. »