Laurent Courtois is set to become the new head coach of CF Montreal, who fired former coach Hernan Losada after a 10th-placed finish in the Eastern Conference during the 2023 MLS regular season.
Courtois is a 45-year-old native of Lyon, France. He had a 16-year professional career during which he played in France, England, Spain, and the United States.
He spent the last six years of his career in MLS, playing for now-defunct Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy. He began his coaching career with the Galaxy, then he moved back home to coach in Olympique Lyon's academy before joining the Columbus Crew academy in 2019.
In 2022, Courtois became the coach of Columbus Crew II in MLS Next Pro, and he won the league's inaugural championship and the Coach of the Year Award.
Crew II made the MLS Next Pro Final again in 2023 but lost to Austin FC.
In terms of the Crew II's style under Courtois, which could indicate how he plans to set up the team in Montreal, it should be noted that the team scored 53 of its 58 MLS Next Pro goals in 2023 from inside the 18-yard box.
Crew II also had the fifth-highest pass completion percentage of the competition's 28 teams. They also had the joint-second-most assisted goals, attempted the eighth-fewest long balls, and were in the middle of the pack in terms of one-on-one duels won.
These numbers indicate that Courtois wants his team to work as a unit and control games while beating teams with technical ability instead of overwhelming them with athleticism.
Courtois has found success so far, but he is still an inexperienced coach who will start his first professional coaching job when he joins Montreal, who are +5000 to win the 2024 MLS Cup. Time will tell whether his pass-and-move style was as a result of the players he had at Crew II, or if that's how he wants all his teams to play.
If the style from Crew II is his identity as a coach, that could benefit CF Montreal in the long run. The team held possession just 48.3 percent of the time and scored the third-fewest goals in MLS, but with the third-youngest squad based on average age and one of the league's lowest payrolls at less than $10 million, Courtois should be able to mold the team the way he wants.
Montreal has brought in two fullbacks with MLS experience this offseason: 28-year-old Brazilian right back Ruan from DC United and 28-year-old Canadian left back Raheem Edwards from LA Galaxy. The club also drafted a defender in UCLA's Grayson Doody, who played mostly at right back in college.
Now, Montreal needs to focus on finding a goalscorer. Right wing-back Mathieu Choiniere was the club's top scorer with five goals in 2023. Summer signing Kwadwo Okopu showed promise with four goals in 12 matches and should improve after a full preseason, but Montreal need another attacking threat.
Montreal has already improved upon its defense, which conceded the joint-eighth-most goals in the league with 52 last season. A new goalscorer - and the players buying into Courtois' philosophy - could see a major improvement upon the club's 10th-placed finish in the Eastern Conference last season.