With 17 players already set to make their return to FC Montreal this season, the tone of the 2016 campaign should be quite different following the 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference a year ago. This still is an incredibly young bunch, but it also is a group that has a professional year together. By midseason last year, FC Montreal strung together six wins in an eight-game stretch, with more than half of this season’s roster on board during that span. Needless to say, the expectations from Philippe Eullaffroy’s side have risen by leaps and bounds heading into Year 2.
Head Coach: Philippe Eullaffroy
Stadiums: Complexe Sportif Claude-Robillard and Stade Olympique
2015 results: 8-16-4 record; 10th in Eastern Conference
2015 postseason: Did not qualify for USL Playoffs
Goalkeeper: Montreal utilized four goalkeepers last season, and returnee David Paulmin posted the strongest results with a 4-4-1 record to go along with 40 saves and a pair of clean sheets. Alongside him are two newcomers in former Montreal Impact U23 goalkeeper Luca Leone and former Impact Academy player James Pantemis.
Defense: Montreal’s outside backs accounted for the most consistent playing time last season, and they are back to anchor the back line in 2016 with Zachary Sukunda at left back and Janouk Charbonneau on the right. Mele Temguia also earned 19 caps in the defense last season, so there is certainly some strong familiarity among this group. The newest members, Thomas Meilleur-Giguere and Simon Lemire, have previously suited up for the Montreal Impact’s Academy.
Midfield: Dynamic attacking midfielder Alessandro Riggi stepped up last season as the club’s clear offensive force with a team-leading nine goals to go with two assists in 26 matches. Riggi, Fabio Morelli and Marco Dominguez, who all earned more than 20 appearances in 2015, make up a deep midfield base. The club gave some substantial experience to this group last season as nine rostered midfielders for 2016 saw the pitch for FC Montreal.
Forward: Charles Joly spent the first half of 2015 recovering from a knee injury. By the time the 19-year-old worked his way back, Montreal supporters caught a glimpse of what he brings to the attack. Joly’s first-half hat trick against Saint Louis FC in mid-July was one of the strongest individual efforts of FC Montreal’s first USL season, and he returns to lead the front line in 2016. Also back is 21-year-old Cameroonian Jacques Haman, who signed with the club midseason last year. He went on to post three goals in nine games.
Strengths: Ignore that 32-goal figure from a season ago as the club tallied only nine times over the first 14 games of the season. The second half was more reminiscent of what this year’s offense should bring. With Alessandro Riggi, Charles Joly and Jacques Haman at the forefront, this team could have some impressive scoring flair throughout the season.
Weaknesses: Despite a familiar defensive group returning, the members of last year’s team regularly were prone to giving up a number of goals – 15 times Montreal allowed two or more goals. It was no clear-cut pattern, either, as some of Montreal’s defensive lapses came on set pieces, poor marking in the box, counters and more. The Harrisburg City Islanders, in particular, were able to break apart Montreal with regularity last season. FC Montreal will need to tighten things up in the defensive third this year to coincide with what could be a promising offensive corps.
Key number: 22 –Alessandro Riggi and Luca Leone are the two oldest players on FC Montreal’s roster at 22.
Noteworthy matchups: The Canadian derby between FC Montreal and Toronto FC II will be a good indicator of how the second-year USL sides respond after a season in which they both finished in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. Their 2016 series starts when FC Montreal hosts on April 9 at Stade Olympique.
Coach’s view: “We are a really young team, but the 2015 experience will help the whole group to perform better earlier in the season. … We aim to be in the playoff race this year.” – Philippe Eullaffroy
Current roster (updated: March 11, 2016):
Goalkeepers: Luca Leone, James Pantemis, David Paulmin
Defenders: Janouk Charbonneau, Jems Geffrard, Simon Lemire, Thomas Meilleur-Giguere, Aron Mkungilwa, Zachary Sukunda, Mele Temguia, Nevello Yoseke
Midfielders: Louis Beland-Goyette, David Choiniere, Marco Dominguez, Samuel Duffek, Heikel Jarras, Mastanabal Kacher, Philippe Lincourt-Joseph, Fabrice Mbvouvouma, Fabio Morelli, Alessandro Riggi, Yacine Ait Slimane, Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla
Forwards: Jacques Haman, Charles Joly