Hernan Losada is the 'next man up' in CF Montréal coaching carousel

Montreal's MLS soccer team has had a revolving door of coaches and Hernan Losada is the latest. He's the ninth head coach in 10 years and the youngest in the franchise's history.

Argentinian takes over as team rebuilds its roster following strongest season ever

Portrait of a man with dark hair, a close beard and glasses.
Hernan Losada has experience as a player and a coach and is still young enough to take part in player drills. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Two bags. That's all Hernan Losada physically had with him when he arrived in January to start his new job as head coach of CF Montréal.

Losada travels light because men like him don't need to bring much more with them than the passion they carry for the game. The 40-year-old Argentinian says, for him, it has always been this way.

"Every single time I had a free moment, I was playing soccer on the streets with my friends and at the park," Losada said, describing growing up in the Barracas district of Buenos Aires.

Barracas is fertile recruiting ground for several club teams in soccer-crazed Argentina, including Boca Juniors, Club Atlético Huracán, and Club Atletico Independiente — where a young Losada developed his skills playing at their academy.

Yet despite growing up in a kind of soccer mecca, Losada says his parents always encouraged him to think bigger than his neighborhood and country. With soccer being a global game, they told him to be ready for it to take him anywhere.

Today he speaks Spanish, English, Dutch and French and the game has brought him through Belgium to Washington D.C. and now to Montreal.

"The moment I started coaching, I fell in love," Losada said "It's beautiful to see how you have to be a leader and transmit your ideas to the players and when you see everything that you trained during the week happening on game day, that's a beautiful feeling that I can't describe."

Two soccer players battle over the ball.
Hernan Losada, left, playing for Beerschot in 2013. He went on to coach the team. (Marc Goyvaerts/AFP via Getty Images)

Reputational baggage

Losada retired as a player in 2018 and in only four years of coaching he has already earned a reputation with both a positive and negative spin to it.

On the positive side, Losada has shown an ability to get the most out of his players.

In 2019, in his first year as a head coach, he led Beerschot to promotion into Belgium's top division.

Then in 2021, his first year in the MLS, he coached D.C. United to within one point of the playoff while helping Kevin Paredes of Virginia make the leap to Europe where he now plays with VfL Wolfsburg in Germany's top division, the Bundesliga.

Losada says helping Paredes earn a spot in Europe is something he is very proud of.

However, the negative side of his reputation came to light after D.C. United abruptly ended his tenure only six games into his second season there.

In an article published by The Athletic, players on his former team described him as a rigid coach who sucked the fun out of the sport with his rigorous training methods. Today, he chalks up the backlash to a learning experience.

"There were a lot of lessons, first of all understanding that the Belgium league is not MLS and MLS is not the Argentina league," Losada said.

"It's up to the coach to adapt to the competition where you have arrived, to the culture, to the weather conditions, to all this traveling, there were a lot of new things for me," Losada said. "In every period you learn, and I'm sure I will also learn here with CF Montréal."

Losada says Montreal's club structure has a strong European identity to it and after his decade plus in Belgium, he says stepping into his new job has been a comfortable transition.

Soccer coach dressed in black surrounded by players dressed in grey and black.
Hernan Losada says he's willing to 'embrace the suck' and take part in tough training with his players. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Youngest head coach in franchise history

At 40, Losada is the youngest coach in Montreal's franchise history. He sees his age as an advantage.

"I really know, I understand how football players think these days. I know how to communicate with them and [I know how to manage] different personalities," Losada said.

While Losada's native tongue is Spanish, he learned English from a young age in Argentina. He picked up Dutch and French while playing in Belgium. The ability to speak French likely weighed heavily in his favour when Montreal was looking for a new coach.

"It's a beautiful lesson, wherever you go, take (advantage) of the country where you live in because the sooner you adapt, the quicker you will feel at home," Losada said.

Also, being only four years removed from his playing days, Losada will jump into the physically demanding drills with his players. He will run sprints as a way of leading by example.

"When we need to suffer and push more, I will be there … I always like to be there with the guys to show them that I'm also part of it (when we) 'embrace the suck'. We're going to have difficult moments when we need to stay together."

A coach in a white polo points his finger as he talks to a soccer player on the sidelines.
CF Montréal's last coach, Wilfried Nancy, left, led the team to its best season in franchise history, earning 65 points in 2022. (Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press)

A mountain to rebuild and then climb in Montreal

Under the guidance of the previous coach, Wilfried Nancy, CF Montréal is coming off its best season in franchise history, earning 65 points in 2022.

Losada not only has to come into his new job under that shadow, but he also has to live up to it despite the club parting ways with key players, Djordje Mihailovic, Ismaël Koné and Alistair Johnston, who transferred to European sides this off-season.

"We have to be very proud as an organization that we have so many players moving to better competition, moving to Europe, that says a lot about CF Montréal," Losada said. "It's up to us to keep up to those standards."

"Maybe we will win less games, but we will reach further in the playoffs, you never know," he said. "The most important thing is that we keep to our values and philosophy of play. That's non-negotiable for me and the organization."

Losada also comes into his role knowing that CF Montréal has a reputation for cycling through coaches rather quickly — he's the club's ninth head coach since 2012.

Still, the young Argentinian promises to deliver offensive football and entertainment for the fans. Making the playoffs is the goal this season, anything less would be a failure.

CF Montréal begin the 2023 season on Feb. 25 with a game in Florida against Inter Miami. Their first home game is on March 18 at the Olympic Stadium against the 2022 Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Union.


Douglas Gelevan is a national award-winning journalist who has been a member of the CBC team since 2010. In addition to his role as host of CBC Montreal Weekend News, Doug also covers community sports and sports news.