At this point in the history of Crew 2, the Columbus Crew’s new development team, there are more questions from supporters than answers. After all, the MLS Next Pro development league was only announced in November and is expected to begin its first season in March 2022.
Last week, one question was answered in who is going to lead the club. Massive Report reported the hiring of Laurent Courtois as Crew 2’s first-ever head coach and on Monday when Courtois met with the media for the first time alongside Crew 2 general manager Corey Wray, supporters received more answers about why Courtois was the right man to lead the club’s reserve team and the team’s focus with less than two months before the start of the season.
Courtois brings 16 years as a professional soccer player, and another eight as a youth level coach, to this new position. The native Frenchmen has an impressive résumé of coaching youth sides in France with the Lyon Academy and in MLS with the Los Angeles Galaxy and Crew.
Columbus brought Courtois to the Academy in 2019. Equally as important to the Black & Gold to developing players is also developing leaders, so when it came to choosing a head coach for Crew 2, the decision was easy for Wray.
“The stars aligned, but a lot of it had to do with Laurent and all the work that he put in to make the decision to join our Academy to work his way up through there,” said Wray. “He was someone that was able to tick all our boxes along the way.”
Experience is great, but Courtois’ hiring goes beyond the names of teams on a résumé. Wray and the Crew wanted more. The Black & Gold also needed a good human being to take the helm, which they have seen from Courtois over the past two years. On top of that, Wray sees this role as needing a person who also possesses a lot of patience and understanding.
Fortunately for Crew 2, those are traits that Courtois has developed in droves. He admits he didn’t have the patience required to be a professional footballer as a youth player. In his younger days, Courtois hoped that all that professionalism would take care of itself when he walked onto the field.
Luckily, stints in Spain, England the United States and France engrained in him multiple lessons in patience. Now, patience is a trait that’s crucial to his goals for Crew 2.
“I want them to understand how to become, and stay, a pro,” said Courtois. “One thing is becoming a pro; one other thing is staying, in the long run, a pro.”
Crew 2 will of course include growth on the field. Wray’s pointed to the senior team, and head coach Caleb Porter, as the focal point of how Crew 2 will play, but the Black & Gold see MLS Next Pro as much more than growing players to fill the senior team. The club’s goal is to help young professionals turn into veterans.
Making that difficult is the makeup of the team, which is changing by the day. Currently, there are 10 contracts agreed upon in principle, but not 100 percent approved by MLS. That list of players will include both brand new professionals and players that have already begun their pro careers.
While Courtois has experience as an assistant coach and player for the first year of LA Galaxy II, who competed in the USL Championship, he’s never had to face this dynamic as a head coach. The way he plans on bridging the two sets of experience he’s likely to face is another off-the-field focus.
“The resources that we’re going to be able to put to those players is simply amazing and our job is going to be first, remind them, and myself, how grateful we should be,” said Courtois. “This is not an environment that a lot of people have.”
Time will tell how the team responds, but Wray and the Crew front office don’t lack confidence in selecting Courtois to lead the way. For all the work that goes on into a soccer club, Wray calls the Crew 2 head coach position, especially in its infancy, one of the hardest roles in the club.
With preseason kicking off on Monday, there won’t be a long wait to see how it turns out.