"It meant a lot": CF Montréal affirms continued investment in local talent with latest milestone
CF Montréal marked a special bit of history in their match against the New England Revolution this past Saturday.
For the first time since they joined MLS, they had six Québecois players feature in the starting XI for a match, as Jonathan Sirois, Samuel Piette, Nathan Saliba, Zachary Brault-Guillard, Mathieu Choinière and Jules-Anthony Vilsaint all started for Montréal.
Along with BC-born defender Joel Waterman, who made it seven Canadians in total, it was a special milestone for Montréal, as they continue to commit to their recent mandate of investing more in local and Canadian talent.
Le soccer d'ici 💙— CF Montréal (@cfmontreal) August 26, 2023
Pour la première fois en @MLS, six Québécois sont dans le 11 partant 👊
Six players from Quebec feature in our starting line-up for the first time in MLS. Local impact 👏#CFMTL pic.twitter.com/ugShIEEGUk
And it’d pay off for them on the day, too - they’d claim a big 1-0 win over the Revolution, climbing up to eighth place in MLS’s Eastern Conference with the result.
Yet, this is just a continuation of the club’s investment in Canadian talent, one that has been brewing over the last few years now.
From the acquisition of Canadians such as Waterman, Kamal Miller and Alistair Johnston, to the signings of Québecois abroad such as Piette, Brault-Guillard and Vilsaint, and the promotion of academy graduates such as Choinière, Saliba, Sirois and Ismaël Koné, there’s been a whole flood of Québecois and Canadian talent donning the Blue, White and Black of Montréal in recent years.
Safe to say, it’s a far cry from the days when talented players like Maxime Crépeau had to leave the club to get his first opportunity in MLS, as Montréal is giving a chance to these players to play, and are being rewarded for it.
Plus, the best part? These players are deserving of these opportunities, too, as Montréal isn’t just throwing them on the field to say that they’re playing Canadians.
They’re beating out international signings to see the field, eager to show the talent that exists within Québec and across Canada, which only continues to grow.
“It meant a lot,” CF Montréal’s head coach, Hernan Losada, said in French this week. “We’re very happy to give opportunities to local players, and they didn’t just play because they were Québecois, but because they deserved to play, too. They’ve got a great mentality, and in this group, there’s a lot of resilience.”
“These are players who are very motivated who want to show themselves that they can play at this level, they’ve been working hard to take this opportunity, and they’re talented young players with a lot of talent, and a lot of progression. Now, they’re steps to take, as they’re players who are at the start of their journeys, but it’ll be good for them to have played in front of our fans, who they represent with pride.”
And that’s especially key for the Montréal fans, who are a passionate and loyal bunch.
Having had to see so many local players go elsewhere to earn an opportunity, they can now look on at Québecois players like Piette, Saliba, Sirois and Choinière, and resonate with their stories.
Then, from the players' perspective, it also means a lot for them to be able to go out and battle for those fans, their city and province, as they know very well what it means to wear the Montréal shirt.
For them, representing Montréal means something, and they want to show that every time they take the field.
“It’s great to see all the Québecois who are passionate about this sport, about Montréal, about this club, and who are ready to give their all to defend the shirt,” Sirois said in French. “It’s wonderful, and when you’ve got players like that on the pitch, you feel like you’ve got more energy, especially when you’re at home.”
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve got such a good home record this year, as we’ve got the desire to defend this place, our fort, to make Stade Saputo a fortress, so every time I see those guys on the field, I’m happy.”
The best part of all of this? This Montréal movement is just getting started, too.
Hier soir le @cfmontreal a aligné 6 québécois dans son 11 de départ. Il y a 5 ans Saputo disait vouloir le plus de québécois possible (pas dans les estrades, pas sur le banc) dans l’alignement partant. Je dois avouer que je n’y croyais pas à l’époque. #CFMTL pic.twitter.com/ich4De7NPg— Jeremy Filosa 🎙 (@JeremyFilosa) August 27, 2023
More and more talent is coming through the CF Montréal academy ranks, reflected in historic moments such as when their U15 Boys team made the final of MLS NEXT’s Cup earlier this year, which could become much more frequent in the future.
Coupled with the fact that Montréal has been sending players on loan to grow, from Jean-Aniel Assi and Ilias Iliadis in the Canadian Premier League, and Rida Zouhir in the USL, and the team is doing a better job of creating pathways to the first team, which has helped players such as Sirois in the past.
Because of that, don’t be surprised if an achievement like this one becomes standard for this Montréal team, as they continue to tap into the wealth of talent that exists in their province and across this country.
“It was beautiful to see that many Québecois on the field,” Choinière said. “We feel that’ll help get people to the stadium, we had a full house today.”
“It also shows that we don’t have to go everywhere just to get players, and players of quality, there are many of those here in Quéebec, and across Canada, so we can look close to home to find talent who can play at this level.”