The Major League Soccer season took another step closer to the 2023 debut on Monday as teams across the league began preseason training. For the Columbus Crew, this also marked the first time under a new manager and staff.
Head coach Wilfried Nancy led his first training session for the Crew to start the year, making him the eighth full-time head coach in the club’s 27-year history. This past season, Nancy was a finalist for MLS Coach of the Year as he led CF Montreal to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference with a 20-5-9 record. He’s been praised for his abilities in youth player development.
Stepping onto the pitch for the first time in Columbus, Nancy said the squad had a really good spirit that allowed the team to learn clear concepts.
“I was really happy to start because we’ve been waiting for that for a long time. The idea is to help them to get a clear idea of what we want to do. This week is going to be a week of clear concepts of what we want to do and it’s been great,” Nancy said.
While the team just went with the basics in training to shake off the rust of the offseason, Nancy knows the objective ahead of the season. This past year marked the second time Black & Gold narrowly failed to make the postseason after winning the club’s second MLS Cup title in 2020.
A big concept emphasized at training was “every pass means something,” something that the new manager’s distinct French accent could be heard telling his players during drills. Nancy made sure to establish how vital communication was on day one.
“The communication with the players is all about the pass, and the way you’re going to give the pass is going to be an answer for the players,” Nancy said. “That’s why every pass means something and also the fact that they have to run to ask where they want the ball instead of talking all the time or to show. The run dictates also the play.”
Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room said he and the team are excited about Nancy’s style of play that he displayed during his time in Montreal, noting how competitive the games were between the two teams.
In two games against Nancy’s Montreal. the Crew managed only a single point last campaign, losing 2-1 at Lower.com Field in August, before drawing 2-2 at Stade Saputo in September. Both games made for dramatic endings, with Montreal coming from behind to win in Columbus after a rain delay with two late goals and the Crew’s Luis Díaz sent off after a red card in Montreal only for the home team to equalize in stoppage time.
Room said he’s excited about Nancy’s aggressive and dominant play transitioning to Columbus.
“He likes to play from the back and be dominant during the game,” said the goalkeeper. “We have the players who can do that.”
The Blackk & Gold will continue to train until Jan, 15 in the seasonal bubble encompassing the field at Historic Crew Stadium. The team will then travel to South Florida for the first trip of the preseason, where the Columbus will train in Port St. Lucie from Jan. 16-27. The Crew then returns to Columbus and will train in-market from Jan. 28 – Feb. 5, before heading to Fort Lauderdale for the second preseason trip (Feb. 6-18).
While it’s still a couple of months away, the Crew will then travel to and take on the Philadelphia Union on Feb. 25 to being the 2023 MLS season.
Even though it’s just day one of pre-season training, optimism has begun to build in Columbus under a new manager in Nancy.