MONTREAL — Hernan Losada officially started his tenure as manager of CF Montreal on Monday as the Major League Soccer club had its first official training session of the pre-season at Olympic Stadium.
"It was excellent. This is a really good group with a lot of motivation and energy," said Losada. "I'm also happy to just get the season underway, but overall, just very positive."
It was the first time CF Montreal has been together since their Eastern Conference quarterfinal loss to New York City FC three months ago. In that time, the team has undergone some significant changes both on and off the field.
In addition to losing head coach Wilfried Nancy, right-back Alistair Johnston, as well as midfielders Djordje Mihailovic, and Ismaël Koné have all moved to Europe after standout 2023 seasons.
“Those are obviously big losses, but this is going to give opportunities to other guys to step up which is exciting,” said forward Mason Toye. “We’ll see who we add throughout the pre-season, but regardless I think everybody’s just going to try to improve every day build upon last year.”
The session began with an hour of weight training before a ball was even touched, followed by some light jogging with the ball and two different possession drills. Although players are expected to be in shape year-round, the first training session seemed designed to knock off some rust.
“This is mostly to just get back to touching the ball and welcome everyone back with no injuries,” said Losada. “The players came back really fit from holidays, and now it’s an adaptation until we head to Miami. The second week is when we really start working.”
The first training also featured the return of midfielder and captain Victor Wanyama, who had seemingly confirmed that he would not be renewing his contract last year but signed a new two-year deal on Saturday.
Another change at CF Montreal was an upgrade of its field with a brand new, FIFA-grade artificial turf installed at Olympic Stadium during the off-season. The old turf had come under heavy criticism in recent years for its hardness as well as strain on joints and lower backs
"The old one wasn’t the best, so in comparison this is definitely a 10 (out of 10)," said midfielder Mathieu Choinière. "The knees and ankles feel good, and everyone noticed pretty much right away."
The club will hold training at Olympic Stadium until Feb. 4, when they go to Florida and begin final preparations for their season opener on Feb. 24 against Inter Miami.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2023.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press