The Montreal Impact Academy lived many highlights throughout the year. Despite an important movement of staff, the collective progression continued in the office and on the field at Centre Nutrilait.
This year, two homegrown players signed with the first team. The club announced in November that goalkeeper James Pantemis and defender Thomas Meilleur-Giguère will be joining the MLS team for the 2018 season. Pantemis joined the Academy in 2014 from Lakeshore SC, while Meilleur-Giguère joined the club in 2013, from L’Assomption.
Results living up to expectations
The Academy Director Philippe Eullaffroy notes that the Academy’s new methodology and pedagogy was well received by the staff, which led to positive results in the first half of the Development Academy season.
On the pitch, the Academy teams performed well. The U16 and U18 teams, now the U17 and U19 teams respectively, both reached the playoffs in June, an important objective every year. The U18 team changed its head coach halfway through the season, but stayed on course and reached the playoffs.
After the first half of the season, both teams are in good position, with the U19 on top of its group and third in the league standings and the U17 second of its group.
The Impact U15, coached by Serge Dinkota, had an eventful year and the players responded to the call. The team started with the Tournoi Sans Frontières, in Sens, France, where it faced many Ligue 1 clubs, including AS Monaco, Olympique de Marseille and Girondins de Bordeaux. The Bleu-blanc-noir finished 11th out of 24 teams, in front of renowned clubs like West Ham United F.C., AS Saint-Étienne and Servette Genève.
The U15 group then played in the International U14 against other MLS clubs, Bologna FC and the Montreal-Nord Pumas, who qualified through the International U14 Qualification Tournament. They finished 6th.
Dinkota and his group also started playing in the Development Academy for the first time, joining the two older Academy teams, and currently have an 8-4-0 record after the first half of the season.
Eduardo Sebrango, who started working at the Academy in the middle of 2016, first took over the age group one year older than Serge Dinkota’s team, and brought them to the Tournoi de Neuville sur Saône. The Impact didn’t make it through the group stage, but did well against opponents like Olympique de Marseille (1-0 loss), RCD Espanyol (1-0 loss) and FC Fleury 91 (1-1 draw).
When the age categories changed during the summer, Dinkota followed his group and Sebrango took charge of the Impact U14. Together, they won the Mauro Biello Tournament in September.
“Whether it’s in Quebec or abroad, the teams’ results were solid,” said the Academy director Philippe Eullaffroy. “The club’s image is getting more positive abroad and at home. We are now fully part of the Quebec and Canadian soccer landscape and people are asking us to take part in international tournaments.”
Scouting at the Academy
In 2017, the Impact Academy remarkably improved its scouting department. Simon Gatti started in his new functions as head scout, assisted by Jean-Yves Grenouillat.
As well as strengthening the links with amateur clubs and associations, he contributed to the recruitment of many players with high potential.
“It is part of the improvements we made,” said Eullafroy. “It helps us in the long run and strengthens our relationships with amateur clubs that are constantly getting better. It gives us access to the province’s best players in advance. And finally, we get better feedback from the clubs on the players that we scout.”
See you next year
In 2018, the Academy will keep aiming for new heights, by taking part in many respected international tournaments, as well as organizing quality tournaments with international and local teams at Centre Nutrilait.
As for the Development Academy, the goal remains to make the playoffs, with the U17 and U19 teams in a good position thus far. Will they be able to exceed last year’s results and reach the quarterfinals? We will only know in June.