MONTREAL – Everybody loves a local lad, and the Impact now have another.
Montreal announced on Tuesday that 19-year-old defender Karl Ouimette, who was born 25 minutes from Stade Saputo, is the first Impact Homegrown player to sign a Major League Soccer professional contract with the club. Ouimette is in his fourth season with the Impact since joining their Academy.
Ouimette, who has been training regularly with the first team for close to a year-and-a-half, impressed head coach Jesse Marsch during the Disney Pro Soccer Classic preseason tournament, where he displayed remarkable versatility. A center back by trade, Ouimette enjoyed great moments as an outside back and fit in well with the main group, but was nevertheless taken aback by the contract offer.
“I was a little surprised,” Ouimette told reporters on Tuesday. “I was telling myself that I was just being given the chance to train with the pros this year, and I wanted to set the stage for next year and give them no choice by playing a solid game.”
Sporting director Nick De Santis lavished praise on Ouimette and insisted on the fact that being local had nothing to do with the club’s decision. Ouimette getting a pro contract, De Santis said, is down to his maturity, consistency and commitment to the club.
Moreover, De Santis stated that the signing of a first Homegrown player represents a powerful and meaningful precedent on many levels at the club.
“Today, we’re sending a message to Academy players: Yes, with the right potential and mentality, you can make it to the first team,” De Santis said. “We’re sending a message to the staff and to [Academy director and U-21 head coach] Philippe Eulaffroy: You’ve done an excellent job from Day 1. To the supporters: In the end, yes, we’re a different culture and we’ll promote kids from here. As a club, it’s important to promote kids with the right mentality and capacity to play at a top level.”
And Ouimette, who has shared locker rooms with those players, wholeheartedly agrees.
“Philippe, my coach, puts in a lot of time and it’s great to see that we reap what we sow,” Ouimette said. “There are other Academy guys coming through and they’re solid.”