Columbus Crew batter CF Montréal on Wilfried Nancy's "emotional" return


On a human level, there’s a sentimental side to Wilfried Nancy. Not so much on a coaching level, judging by the Columbus Crew’s comfortable 4-2 win Saturday night at Stade Saputo against his former club, CF Montréal.

Nancy, who joined the Canadian side over a decade ago as an academy manager before taking charge of the first team in 2021 in the wake of Thierry Henry's departure and leading CFMTL to their best-ever MLS regular-season finish the following year, put all feelings aside in his first game back at his old stomping grounds after joining Columbus in the winter.

With his trademark tactical acumen, he got the best of successor Hernán Losada while his players responded in kind, with Cucho Hernández netting his first MLS hat trick after an early Gabriele Corbo own-goal set the tone for the visitors.

“Yes, it was emotional. I’m a human being,” Nancy said postmatch, letting nostalgia appear after getting the job done over 90 solid minutes.

“It was strange because life is crazy in a way. Sometimes it can be cruel. But my point is, I was in the visiting locker room,” the French coach added.

“As you know, I started my career in 2010 in Montréal, in this locker room.”

Cucho time

The Crew’s third win in their last four matches vaulted them into fourth place in the Eastern Conference table, good enough for home-field advantage in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs. It also helped them turn the page on their midweek loss against Houston Dynamo FC.

Hernández was especially bitter over the 2-0 defeat at Shell Energy Stadium, having wasted a golden scoring opportunity that could’ve changed the course of the match. But he more than made up for it Saturday night, striking three times – including once from the penalty spot – to reach 9g/10a on the season.

“The work’s not done,” the 24-year-old Colombian striker said. “I scored three goals, but the work’s not done. We have to keep going.”

Cucho, arguably the team’s new attacking focal point following the summertime exit of Lucas Zelarayán, is grateful to have Nancy – last season’s runner-up for Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year – leading the charge from the sidelines.

“We were confident and we got the result,” Hernández said. “And thanks to him [Nancy], to his planning as well, we were able to get the victory.”