Wilfried Nancy's masterpiece

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

Wilfried Nancy did not win the MLS Coach of the Year award. That went to Pat Noonan of FC Cincinnati-the Supporters’ Shield winners for the best record in the regular season. It is a regular season award, so it is not surprising Nancy did not win. But, without question, if you consider from the opening of the season through the playoffs, nobody did a better job than Nancy. The 2023 season was Wilfried Nancy’s masterpiece.

All Together Now

While you can point to all of the moves Nancy made with lineups, formations, and in-game decisions, perhaps the most important thing he did was to get the entire roster to buy into his system. Sure, as a player, it is easy to want to play an attacking style that is the most exciting in the league. But only so many guys can play at once. Some are going to be starters and some are going to be substitutes. Playing time can be an issue-an issue that can create a rift in the locker room. The Crew did not have that problem. Nancy got his players to accept their role no matter how small. When the MLS Cup final ended, you saw guys like Kevin Molino and Jimmy Medranda lining up to embrace their head coach. Nancy did a marvelous job of handling team dynamics.

Slow And Steady

We all know the biggest criticism of the Crew throughout the season. Any pundit you listened to or read pointed out the shaky defense. They acknowledged the team had the most exciting offense in the league but felt the lack of defense would be their ultimate downfall. Nancy made a major change in late May by moving midfielders Sean Zawadzki and Malte Amundsen to the back line. This began to sure up things a bit. In August, Rudy Camacho was brought in from Montreal to anchor the center of that back line. The improvement was gradual and the team never received the credit it deserved for its improvement in this area. Nancy had a never-ending faith in his system and the patience to let it develop.

All The Right Moves

Nancy was unafraid to make a personnel move when he felt one was needed. Moving Zawadzki and Amundsen, along with moving Christian Ramirez to the bench when Diego Rossi was brought in are two examples. But his most difficult decision may have come after Match 2 against Atlanta when he decided to go with young Mo Farsi at wingback over veteran Julian Gressel. Going with such a young player in the deciding match of a playoff series over a veteran who had won an MLS Cup could have blown up in Nancy’s face, but Farsi’s play showed it was the correct move. Far more often than not, Nancy made all the right moves.

He may not have won the league's coach of the year award, but he led his team to a MLS Cup. This season was an absolute masterpiece for Wilfried Nancy.

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