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What you need to know

Nancy departs CF Montréal to become Columbus Crew head coach: The Columbus Crew have a new head coach, announcing Tuesday they’ve hired Wilfried Nancy from CF Montréal. Columbus have sent Montréal an undisclosed compensation amount to acquire the 45-year-old Frenchman. 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 Zelarayán and striker Cucho Hernández.

Philadelphia Union land midfielder Perea in trade with Orlando City: The Philadelphia Union have acquired midfielder Andrés Perea in a trade from Orlando City SC. Orlando will get $750,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) across the next two seasons, plus they could receive an additional $100,000 in conditional GAM and a percentage of Perea’s transfer fee if he’s dealt. Perea, 22, has signed a new contract with the Union through 2025 with a team option for 2026.

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The Crew just became immediate contenders

We here at The Daily Kickoff have been pretty open about our appreciation for Wilfried Nancy. The rise from “Dude replacing Thierry Henry whose name we probably wouldn’t have to learn” to “Whoa, Nancy has something working with Montréal” came fast. Beyond Henry’s surprise departure, Montréal were stuck in Florida at the time, waiting for pandemic-era restrictions to end in Canada. And, honestly, the roster didn’t exactly seem loaded. Nancy still took that team to the brink of an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs berth in his first year as manager. 

The moment in particular when I became a fan came against a manager with a much higher profile and a much higher budget. Six games into the 2021 season, CF Montréal traveled north to face Gabriel Heinze and Atlanta United. Atlanta scored the game’s lone goal on the last kick of the game in stoppage time, but despite Montréal’s loss and a near scoreless draw, Heinze made sure to highlight Nancy. 

“Today was a game to talk about both teams' positioning because it was so nice to watch," Heinze said through a translator. "Both teams tried to impose their style and that's beautiful and that's why I also want to congratulate their coach because it was a nice show."

It didn’t take long for everyone to realize Nancy had what it took to last well beyond a surprise first season. He outlasted Heinze and a whole bunch of other managers that have already come and gone. He led Montréal to their best season in history and nearly won the Supporters’ Shield and should have won Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year. Now, he’s taking over a team with a few more resources and a growing talent advantage on Montréal, and they’re eager to return back to the top of the East. 

Because, man, what a weird couple of years for the Crew. After winning MLS Cup in 2020, they came into 2021 with the loftiest possible expectations for a mid-market team. They built on the roster that won MLS Cup with some solid additions and then… totally flamed out and missed the playoffs. 

2022 seemed like a year for redemption. And it might have been, if they hadn’t spent the majority of the season blowing late leads in increasingly creative ways. They missed the playoffs again. That’s despite an outstanding DP signing at striker in Cucho Hernández, a breakout year from Derrick Etienne Jr. and a roster that seemed set to at least make it above the line, all things being equal. 

Enter Nancy. Etienne Jr., Artur and Pedro Santos are all gone, but now the Crew and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko have the rest of the offseason to fill those spots with Nancy’s vision in mind. As of now, it feels like a few moves are necessary if Nancy wants to continue using a back three, but Columbus aren’t far away from having a roster prepared to compete immediately for a home playoff spot. Cucho is a rising star, Lucas Zelarayán already is one and Darlington Nagbe is coming off his 10th consecutive season or so of being named the most underrated player in the league. 

That trio is enough to power pretty much any team in MLS. Pair them with Nancy and it feels like the Crew will be ready to make waves in year one. Expectations won’t be quite as high as they were entering 2021. But it’s very easy to be confident in the Crew again.

Other Things

Minnesota United sign goalkeeper Irwin in free agency: Minnesota United FC have signed free-agent goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Irwin, who was last with the Colorado Rapids, joins through the 2024 MLS season with a club option. The 33-year-old has a decade of MLS experience, posting 34 clean sheets across 137 games with Colorado and Toronto FC.

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