Wilfried Nancy departs CF Montréal to become Columbus Crew head coach

Wilfried Nancy

The Columbus Crew have a new head coach, announcing Tuesday they’ve hired Wilfried Nancy from CF Montréal after he led their fellow Eastern Conference club during the 2021-22 MLS seasons.

Columbus have sent Montréal an undisclosed compensation amount to acquire the 45-year-old Frenchman. That compensation also involves three members of Nancy’s staff in Montréal – assistant coach Kwame Ampadu, fitness coach Jules Gueguen and video analyst Maxime Chalier – heading to Columbus.

Montréal are now seeking a new head coach two-and-a-half months before the 2023 MLS campaign begins on February 25.

"We are thrilled to welcome Wilfried to Columbus as the next head coach of the Crew," Columbus president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a release. "Throughout this process, it was clear that he is a knowledgeable, insightful and innovative coach with extensive experience within the different levels of the North American soccer landscape. We know he is the right person to lead the team back into the postseason as we contend for championships. 

"Our top priority was ensuring that we created alignment from the first team, through Crew 2 and to the Academy with coaches, players and staff. We believe Wilfried’s background as a developer of players will give him the perspective and understanding into building a winning culture centered around learning and collaboration."

Columbus' core

Nancy fills Columbus’ vacancy after they parted ways with Caleb Porter just after Decision Day (Oct. 10). They missed the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs during three of Porter’s four seasons in charge, including in 2022, though won MLS Cup 2020 during the pandemic-shortened season.

Nancy, a runner-up for 2022 Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year honors, will now inherit a talent-rich core that includes goalkeeper Eloy Room, center back Jonathan Mensah, central midfielder Darlington Nagbe, playmaker Lucas Zelarayan and striker Cucho Hernandez.

Across all competitions, Nancy had a 38W-25L-16D record in Montréal.

"I would like to thank Dee and Jimmy Haslam, Dr. Pete Edwards, and Tim Bezbatchenko for this opportunity," Nancy said. "It is truly an honor to be the next head coach for the Crew, and my family and I are excited to settle in and become part of the Columbus community. 

"I am looking forward to working closely with Crew 2 and the Academy program. I’m eager to get started and welcome the players back on January 6 as we begin our quest to bring another trophy to Columbus."

Montréal changes

Montréal, after finishing second in the Eastern Conference in 2022, are undergoing an offseason of change. Nancy has departed, captain Victor Wanyama (lone Designated Player) is likely not returning and three key players – Djordje Mihailovic (to AZ Alkmaar), Alistair Johnston (to Celtic FC) and Ismael Kone (to Watford FC) – have been transferred to Europe.

Nancy spent over a decade with the club, progressing from their academy to a first-team assistant and then head coach. He initially took the first-team reins when Thierry Henry departed just ahead of the 2021 MLS season.

"Despite the club efforts to have Wilfried continue our project, we were forced to accept his decision to leave the organization. We want people who want to be with us and Wilfried has chosen a different path," CF Montréal president and CEO Gabriel Gervais said in a release. 

"I would like to thank him for all his years with the club and in particular, for what he accomplished with the first team over the past two seasons. We wish him and his assistants the best of luck in their future careers."

Nancy is one of the youngest coaches in MLS and, under his tutelage, six players were named to Canada’s final roster for the 2022 FIFA World Cup

"I want to thank Wilfried for his two years as head coach. I would have liked to continue the club's project with him. Despite his departure, our philosophy remains unchanged," CF Montréal vice president and chief sporting officer Olivier Renard said.

"The hiring process for the next head coach is already underway and I am confident for the future."