The story of the 2023 MLS season and football in December

Looking back at a big season for the former CF Montréalers in the Columbus Crew, a Premier League mid-season review and more.

The 2023 MLS season was a spectacle of high-flying action, dramatic twists and a showcase of soccer excellence. 

While the Columbus Crew’s triumphant journey to the top is a story of resilience and skill, the season was also marked by notable performances from teams across the league, each adding unique chapters to the MLS narrative.

The Columbus Crew’s path to glory was a blend of strategic brilliance and collective team effort. Key players stepped up in crucial moments, backed by a coach whose tactical acumen was second to none. The team’s journey was a testament to their tenacity, culminating in a well-deserved championship.

The final whistle sparked jubilant celebrations among the Columbus Crew players, staff and fans. The victory was a culmination of a season’s hard work, dedication and an unwavering belief in their ability. The players embraced, the coach looked on proudly and the fans sang in unison, creating a moment that would be etched in the memories of all who witnessed it.

Not only did we see the Crew earn a third star, we also were witness to ex-CF Montréal coach Wilfried Nancy becoming the first Black head coach to win MLS Cup in the league’s history.

The story of the 2023 MLS season and football in December

A special congratulations & shoutout to Bushy!!!

Columbus Crew goalkeeper Evan Bush — another former (longtime) Montreal player as well as a supporter of The 1st Half podcast and the GOAL Initiatives Foundation crew — deserves everything he has received.

Eastern conference highlights saw Atlanta United continue to be a force to reckon with, showcasing a potent attack and dynamic gameplay, even though they fell short of the final prize. NYCFC demonstrated resilience and skill, with several young players rising to the occasion, signaling a bright future. Known for their cohesive play, Philadelphia Union remained a tough competitor, pushing opponents to their limits in many thrilling encounters.

Western conference standouts saw Los Angeles FC, with their star-studded lineup, once again displaying moments of sheer brilliance, captivating fans with their attacking flair — exactly why they ended up in the final vs the Crew. The Seattle Sounders maintained their reputation for consistency and grit, proving tough for any team to beat. Portland Timbers showcased their trademark fighting spirit, with several standout performances keeping fans on the edge of their seats.

The season also saw the rise of emerging talents across various teams, players who showed they could be the future stars of the league.

Simultaneously, seasoned veterans provided leadership and experience, often changing the course of games with their skill and understanding. While attackers often grab the headlines, the 2023 season also celebrated the art of defence. Teams like Minnesota United and the New England Revolution boasted some of the most robust defences in the league, complemented by goalkeepers who pulled off spectacular saves.

Across all stadiums, the fans were the heart of the MLS experience. From the passionate supporters of the Columbus Crew to the vibrant crowds in Atlanta, Montreal and L.A., the fans created an atmosphere that was second to none, celebrating the beautiful game in all its glory.

I will not even get into the Inter Miami thing with a certain Mr. Messi — an article unto itself.

The 2023 MLS season was not just about the Columbus Crew’s victory but a celebration of soccer across the United States and Canada. Each team, with its unique style and story, contributed to a season filled with unforgettable moments, setting the stage for an even more exciting future in American and Canadian soccer.

Now for the Premier League mid-season review.

As the English Premier League approaches its annual Christmas break, the 2023–24 season is shaping up to be one of the most thrilling and unpredictable in recent memory. With surprising upsets, the emergence of new talents and the perennial battle for supremacy, the first half of the season has been nothing short of spectacular and frazzling.

The title race is intensely competitive, with traditional heavyweights and a couple of dark horses all in contention. Reigning champions Man City are finding stiff competition this season, with Liverpool and Arsenal breathing down their necks, and as of the time this article was published, both are ahead of City by a few points. The points gap is minimal, ensuring that every match is crucial and the title race is wide open.

Surprise Team of the Season as of this point must be Aston Villa, defying expectations to sit comfortably in the upper echelons of the table at third. Their blend of young talent and experienced heads has proven to be a successful formula, with several noteworthy performances against the league’s top sides and coach Unai Emery has proven to be a miracle worker.

At the other end of the table, the relegation battle is already taking shape. Struggling Sheffield United, Burnley and Luton Town are fighting to climb out of the bottom three, but time is running out to turn their fortunes around even if it’s only mid-December.The pressure is mounting, and the Christmas period could be crucial for their survival hopes.

Happy Holidays to everyone, Hoping for Peace in 2024 and look forward to what the new year will bring. ■

Check out The 1st Half podcast (about soccer and football culture in Montreal and beyond) here.

This article was originally published in the November 2023 issue of Cult MTL.

For more Montreal sports coverage, please visit our Sports section.