Wilfried Nancy extends contract with Columbus Crew as he seeks to build a dynasty in MLS

Columbus Crew coach Wilfried Nancy has penned a contract extension with the reigning MLS champions, reports L’Équipe.

The French coach, whose entire coaching experience has been in North America after working his way up through the youth ranks to coach Montréal Impact and then joining Columbus in December 2022, has won plaudits across the world for his proactive, attacking style of play which saw him clinch MLS Cup with the Crew in his first full season, as well as taking the Ohio club to the CONCACAF Champions Cup semi-finals, where they will face Mexican side Monterrey as the only MLS representative next week. 

Nancy’s playing career was, to put it mildly, unremarkable. Spells with Toulon, as well as amateur and semi pro clubs such as Noisy-Le-Sec and Chatellerault were followed by a move to Canada in 2005, where he coached private school team College Stanislas, all whilst playing for the university team UQAM, where he was named MVP of Québec before retiring and turning his attention to full-time coaching. 

Instrumental in developing Montréal Impact’s academy since its inception in 2011, coaching the U18s, U21s and U16s before being promoted to first team assistant in 2016, Nancy quickly made a name for himself as one of the eminent coaches in a developing league before replacing Thierry Henry as head coach of a newly-rebranded CF Montréál in 2021. 

Despite falling out with the franchise owner Joey Saputo, Nancy decided to remain with the club for 2022 and went on to guide the team to second place in the eastern conference, setting franchise records for the most wins (20, including an MLS record 11 road wins) and most points in the regular season (65). Such was his success, the Frenchman only narrowly missed out on the coach of the season award to long-time Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin. 

Following the end of the season, in which Montréal lost in the conference semi-finals to New York City FC, Nancy joined Columbus Crew despite an automatic contract extension with the Québec club, requiring the Crew to pay compensation to the Canadian outfit.

Playing an attractive, fluid style of football in a 3-4-2-1 formation, Columbus under Nancy have found the perfect blend of MLS experience, with seasoned stars such as club captain and 4 time MLS Cup winner Darlington Nagbe complimenting the star quality of the likes of Colombian former Watford forward Cucho Hernandez and Uruguyan international Diego Rossi and former Ligue 1 players such as Steven Moreira (Stade Rennais, Toulouse, Lorient). 

December’s MLS Cup triumph, a 2-1 win over LAFC, embodied the sterling work of one of MLS’s best coaches and also made Nancy the first black coach to win US soccer’s showpiece, hugely significant for a growing sport in a country where racial inequality is acute and widespread. 

And so here we are, in the Frenchman’s second season as Columbus bid to become the first team to retain MLS Cup since the famous LA Galaxy of David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane in 2012. A new contact has been signed, much to the delight of franchise president Tim Bezbatchenko: 

“We are delighted to extend Wilfried’s contract because he has helped us create a culture within the club, notably in our collective engagement to develop players, both as players and as humans.”

Wilfried Nancy was also delighted to commit his future to the reigning champions: 

“We have a clear vision of what we want to do with this club, how we want to do it and continue to write history and provide emotions. With humility, I am very proud of what we achieved last year, but I am especially happy to see us grow and evolve together, both as players and individuals.” 

Expect the Crew to be right in the mix come the end of the season as they seek to defend their trophy. 

GFFN | Jack McArdle

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