Only five points behind Eastern Conference leaders New England Revolution with a game in hand, CF Montréal are a surprise contender for the top spot in the standings. The new-look team under new manager Wilfried Nancy was considered a question mark heading into 2021, but three months into the season are one of the MLS' most impressive sides.
On Extratime's latest episode, Matt Doyle argued it comes down to a new roster-building strategy from Montréal's front office. A decade into life in MLS, they've opted to spend big on talent inside the league rather than vigorously shop outside of it – and are reaping the benefits of that approach.
"They bet big on players from within MLS. They bet that it was smarter to spend your allocation money collecting guys like Mason Toye, like Djordje, and like Kamal Miller especially," Doyle said. "[This is] as opposed to bringing in high-priced imports and hoping that they can just plug and play and fix all the problems. That is not to say they didn't do that. They've certainly made some moves over the year-and-a-half, and some of them have been pretty good, others less so. But it was really a pretty bold vision to do that."
It wasn't Montréal's only wager for 2021. The club was suddenly thrown into a managerial search when Thierry Henry stepped down right as preseason started for personal reasons. Instead of bringing in a coach from outside MLS, the club opted to hire within and stick with longtime assistant Nancy.
"So far, that bet looks brilliant," Doyle added. "What we said in preseason is that he has a chance, it seems, to be for Montréal what Oscar Pareja was for FC Dallas eight or nine years ago or what Jim Curtin's been for Philadelphia. And so far, the early returns on that are through the roof positive and I'm super happy for them."
Unbeaten in their last six matches, having won their last three, Montréal take on New York City FC this Wednesday (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) at Red Bull Arena.