Part 5 of our 13 part USL Eastern Conference Preview series, this time brought to you by returning louisvillecoopers.com contributor Jason Ence! Links to previous precocious previews: Part I: Bethlehem Steel; Part 2: Charleston Battery; Part 3: Charlotte Independence; Part 4: FC Cincinnati
Ah, the first of the “Terrible Twos” in our preview series. FC Montreal is the “affiliate” of the Montreal Impact, which means their roster can change at any time. Now, while I don’t expect we will see Didier Drogba in the USL ranks anytime soon, under current roster rules the MLS club can send down players at a moment’s notice to play in matches against other USL teams. It kind of sucks, to be honest, but it’s part of the business.
The “club” saw its first action in 2015, going 8-4-16 en route to finishing tenth in the East after a horrible start to the season. They lost their first five matches, and took just four points from their first fourteen games. Then, something changed, although it’s still a mystery as to what. The side won six of their next eight matches, including a 4-0 win over Louisville at Slugger Field in early August.
You could be excused if you don’t know any of the players on the team…especially when you realize that most of them cannot even remember the 90s. The youngest team in the USL last season, FC Montreal’s roster has players that don’t remember life before internet, cell phones, or DVDs. Their youngest player, Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, is sixteen years old. He’s five years away from having a celebratory beer after a game in the States. He is one of eleven players who were not alive when the OJ Simpson trial ended.
The top returning scorer on the team is winger Alessandro Riggi. A product of the Impact academy, RIggi spent time in Italy and Spain before returning to Canada. His nine goals were as many as the next three highest-scoring players on the team combined; needless to say, FC Montreal didn’t score much last season.
The 25-player roster contains 22 Canadians, which should lead to plenty of jokes for the Coopers when they visit town. That said, eight of their players have represented America’s hat in U-18 international play, so their base—while young—has promising talent.
Philippe Eullaffroy runs the team, and is a former manager of the Impact Academy from 2010-2013. After being an assistant coach with the Impact in the MLS for two years, he took over the USL side last year and is now coaching many players that he helped groom in the academy.
Professionally, he played for nine seasons with Troyes AC, a team in France that is currently in Ligue 1 but is about to get relegated down after just one season in the top flight. After his playing career ended, he worked with the youth academies of Troyes and Stade de Reims, before returning to the land of maple syrup to manage a few smaller clubs.
What is the difference between the Loch Ness Monster and FC Montreal fans?
People claim to have seen the Loch Ness Monster.
FC Montreal claims to have had an average attendance last season of 411 fans. In other words, they counted the players, the staff members, the referees, the front office, the stadium workers, and the ballboys as they walked in. And then counted them again as they left. And then multiplied by some random number. Don’t believe me? Watch the match replay and see if you can find any fans. Or just watch the replay and enjoy how awesome last season was. Besides, these guys deserve at least somebody watching their performances last year.
This year, the club moves into a new home, the Complexe Sportif Claude-Robillard, which is in a much-more populated area of the city. They should get better attendance numbers simply due to people getting lost in the complex and stumbling upon the match while trying to find the swimming pool and running track. Who knows, they might even get enough people to form a supporters group. And I hope they do, because this team actually has the potential to be one of the up-and-coming in the USL if they can repeat their form of the second half of last season.