By Mike Rice.
It wasn’t to be for Hernán Losada at CF Montreal.
A tenth-place finish just two points off the playoff line doesn’t sound too bad considering he has been limited to one Designated Player, a team that was ravaged with sales before the season started, which then continued in the summer transfer window, it may seem a little harsh.
But CF Montreal aren’t your average MLS team. Owner Joey Saputo is looking for his ninth head coach in 10 years.
They are a club consistently in transition. Young players are encouraged through and while this has been prosperous with the likes of Ismaël Koné, this season’s flock of youngsters hasn’t had a talent who can step up and surprise with such immense talent out of almost nowhere.
Now though, the search begins again. A new coach will be required and there are plenty who have been relieved of their duties in MLS or from abroad who could be considered, but what about closer to home?
The Canadian Premier League has just finished its fifth season which has given Canadian coaches and players the opportunities which so recently weren’t available to them.
As coaches move up from League 1 sides to Canadian Premier League teams, we still await that first chance for a coach to take on an MLS head coaching role.
Pa-Modou Kah was the head coach of Pacific FC and has gone on to be an assistant coach at Charlotte FC with a stint with MLS Next Pro side North Texas SC as their head coach for one season.
Is this the time now though for CF Montreal to recognise the quality of coaching at the Canadian Premier League level?
In the Great White North, one name is being linked with making the step up from the CPL: Forge FC’s Bobby Smyrniotis has achieved all there is to achieve in the CPL more than once.
His Forge side are perennial winners. He has dealt with changes in the roster and has a history of developing some of Canada’s finest talents at youth level.
Could now be the time for Smyrniotis to step up to MLS level? Well, he has also been linked with the Canadian Men’s National Team vacancy as we see Mauro Biello struggling in his interim role.
Whatever happens, it’s fair to say that Bobby won’t be in the CPL for long and a step up in any possibility will be expected shortly.
As well as Bobby, there are others who have the pedigree. While dealing with a difficult situation in Winnipeg, Phillip Dos Santos has been building his experience at Valour FC after assistant vacancies at Ottawa Fury, Indy Eleven and Vancouver Whitecaps to name a few, he was also born in Montreal.
Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has just won the regular season with Cavalry but a chance to take his side into the Concacaf Champions Cup may be too much to give up even if considered.
There are other coaches in the early stages of their CPL careers in James Merriman (Pacific FC) and Patrice Gheisar (Halifax Wanderers) who are showing high levels of coaching quality.
Gheisar is also a coach with a great reputation amongst some of Canada’s elite players having been a key coach in youth football in and around the Toronto area like Smyrniotis.
For the CPL, a coach making the step up to MLS will be another feather in its cap, and a great symbol of the importance the league has in player and coach development within the country as it prepares to co-host the 2026 World Cup.