With the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs just around the corner, pretty much everyone knows not to sleep on CF Montréal heading into the postseason.
What everyone might not know, according to the Extratime crew, is the Canadian side's leap into top-tier status this season is due in large part to Wilfried Nancy.
For that important reason, the panel considers the French-born manager the favorite to win Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year honors in 2022.
"What Nancy did with this team, bringing them from mid-40s to probably mid-60s in terms of points by the end of the year, that's the toughest thing for a coach to do," Matt Doyle raved about Nancy, who's led CFM to a 19W-9L-5D record ahead of Decision Day on Sunday – with the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed still within reach.
"To go from a pretty good team to one of the three best teams in the league, that is a massive jump."
Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year | Extratime Awards
And while Montréal boast several solid players – most notably AZ Alkmaar-bound midfielder Djordje Mihailovic – Nancy achieved this without any huge marquee names on his roster.
"The fact is they did it without adding any big pieces," noted Doyle, with Montréal winning even when Mihailovic was sidelined over the summer by an ankle injury. In fact, Montréal have lost just once since mid-July, going 10W-1L-3D in that span.
" … Whether they win [the East] or finish second, I just think this team with guys who came from the academy, were castoffs by other MLS teams, Kei Kamara came from the beach, guys brought up from Canadian Premier League – Nancy has checked every box in his two years that it took [Philadelphia Union boss] Jim Curtin, who I think is probably the best coach in the league right now, five years to check those boxes. 2022 it's Wilfried Nancy."
What about Wolff?
That's not to say that it's a runaway case, considering the astonishing second-year turnaround orchestrated by Josh Wolff at Austin FC. After suffering some serious growing pains during their 2021 debut season, the Verde & Black are suddenly a genuine MLS Cup contender, finishing second in the West behind only Supporters' Shield winners LAFC while having the league's third-most prolific offense (64 goals) and Golden Boot presented by Audi candidate Sebastián Driussi (21g/7a).
"I think Josh Wolff deserves a lot of credit because in some ways he was dealt a similar situation," argued Calen Carr. "Austin was really more about continuing to build the culture and to stay true to their philosophy. This was a team that couldn't score a goal at all and continued their principles to continue to build forward, and then it's really turned into this free-flowing attack that we're seeing now."
For Andrew Wiebe, however, Nancy was dealt an even tougher hand than Wolff was when taking the reins from Thierry Henry early last year. In 2021, Montréal finished two points below the playoff line (10th place).
"Montréal's basically stuck inside of Canada, unable to travel, unable to be together," due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. "For him to build out of that to this: incredible."
To find out who else the Extratime crew considers worthy of end-of-season award recognition, watch the full episode here.