web analytics
Maxime Crépeau eyes new heights with Portland Timbers: “The potential is incredible” | MLSSoccer.com

Maxime Crépeau eyes new heights with Portland Timbers: “The potential is incredible” | MLSSoccer.com

Max Crépeau adapted quickly upon moving from LAFC to the Portland Timbers over the winter. Doing so is part of the job for professional players, and this is the fifth destination of his career. So he’s familiar with the process of settling in at a new club.

It’s taken a bit more getting used to for his 3-year-old daughter Lyvia, however.

“Every time she sees LAFC, she’s like ‘dale, dale, dale Black & Gold,’” related Crépeau with a laugh in a conversation with MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “Hey, Papa is not playing for LAFC anymore! Now every time she just switches off of LAFC and now she just says, ‘OK, go Portland.’ So she’s really funny. It’s a funny age.”

Soccer’s polyglot stew of cheers and songs fits nicely into the home life Crépeau and his wife Cristina are creating for their two young children, first in Los Angeles and now in the Rose City. Both are native Quebecers and are keen to pass along the province’s linguistic birthright, while Cristina’s Chilean heritage combined with LA’s Hispanic culture have added Spanish to the mix, too.

“We speak French at home,” said Max. “Our kids, mostly they lived in the States all their life, so they’re both American, which the day to day, it’s English. But we are lucky enough to have the multicultural aspect in our family, my wife’s side is from Chile. So the Spanish is from there and I learned my Spanish when I was with my in-laws, basically, and then obviously with football, with the people you meet, and in LA I got to practice a lot with my players.

“Sometimes my daughter will start a sentence in French, will finish it in Spanish, in the middle she’ll put one or two words in English in there.”

Black & Gold bond

As catchy as the chants of BMO Stadium’s 3252 supporters section were for those young ears, the Timbers Army have a hefty songbook of their own, and Crépeau is excited to introduce Lyvia and her younger brother Tommy to the vibrant scene at Providence Park, where PTFC will welcome his previous team in a nationally-televised Western Conference clash on Saturday afternoon (4:45 pm ET | Apple TV – Free, FOX, FOX Deportes; TSN 2).

It’s an emotional moment on many levels for Crépeau. He helped LAFC reach the past two MLS Cup finals, winning the 2022 edition to cap an impressive Supporters’ Shield-Cup double, building sturdy relationships forged by big achievements and the long, harrowing roads they walked to attain them. And the City of Angels will always linger in the memory as the birthplace of his son.

“A lot of people see the gameday only, but there’s so much attached to it. I had what, six, seven years in Montréal, one on loan to Ottawa, three in Vancouver, two LAFC and now I signed a three[-year contract] here, and that’s the reality of professional sports sometimes,” he said.

Crépeau says he keeps an eye on all his former teams and communities, dating back to his native Montréal, where he climbed the ranks from academy to reserves to first team but had to move on to become a regular starter. The heights he reached at LAFC, however, make it stand out.

“I’ve always kept track of Montréal, Ottawa, even though they’re in the CPL now, I kept track of Vancouver, kept track of LAFC,” he explained. “I have friends as well in LA, where they’re still playing – text messages are flying here and there, as you can imagine.

“Once you raise a title and you achieve something with some guys, the bond that gets created in that moment over the year, it stays. It’s more than sports, it’s the human relationship. So there’s always a special, special feeling and now it’s going to be special to play here against them.”

A fateful MLS Cup

Nothing crystallized that chapter of his life like MLS Cup 2022, an epic clash with the Philadelphia Union that LAFC edged via a penalty-kick shootout to break a wild 3-3 draw.

Crépeau started that match, but had to FaceTime into the postgame celebrations from a hospital bed after suffering a double fracture in his leg as he collided with Cory Burke on a one-on-one in extra time. His replacement, John McCarthy, made two saves in the shootout to claim MVP honors.

The pain of the injury was multiplied by its timing: It meant Crépeau would miss out on the 2022 World Cup with the Canadian national team, dashing – or at least delaying – a lifelong dream as Les Rouges ended a 36-year drought in Qatar. But he also remembers that his challenge on Burke, who’d latched onto a lax back pass from his teammate Jesús Murillo, denied Philly a tap-in to keep the score tied at 2-2, even at the cost of his fracture and a red card.

“There’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple years,” Crepeau said. “It’s that high-stakes games, whether it’s club or national team, you cannot manage anything. You cannot manage your energy. You cannot manage your focus. You’ve got to put everything, every ounce of energy on the field.

“Fantastic final, entertaining, obviously, but I learned a lot about about the journey after the injury as well, and the ups and downs of rehab, recovery. It took me 10 months to actually feel good after that injury.”

The severity of the break extended and complicated his recuperation process – which began with a long stint in a wheelchair – both physically and psychologically. He later wrote about the process in a moving first-person account for LAFC’s website when the Black & Gold returned to the ‘23 Cup final.

Crépeau finally made his return to match action with the club’s MLS NEXT Pro side 260 days after the fracture, then made his first MLS start in El Tráfico, of all occasions, a September match vs. crosstown rivals the LA Galaxy. LAFC would win that characteristically eventful encounter 4-2, then lose just once more down the stretch as they caught fire, a run stopped only by a virtuoso performance from the Columbus Crew in the ‘23 final at Lower.com Field.

New beginnings

That would prove Crépeau’s last match in an LAFC kit. He became a free agent afterwards, and while co-president and general manager John Thorrington had planned on re-signing him, a plot twist arrived when veteran French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris decided to start a new chapter in his illustrious career with an MLS adventure – and thus would be available at a cut-price salary compared his resume.

“There’s all these these rules within our league and we didn’t come to an agreement, basically,” said Crépeau. “But then it worked out for everybody, you know what I mean? We’re having a great project here in Portland, really excited, really happy to be a Timber and then from the side of the league, I believe having a name like Lloris is not a bad thing, either. There is a World Cup winner in the league, it’s fantastic.

Messi arrived, you got Lloris, you had Didier [Drogba, Crépeau’s teammate back in Montréal], you had Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], you had quite a couple of good names in there. And so, if we can attract them at an earlier stage in their career, imagine the ceiling that this league could have?”

Portland were ready and waiting to welcome Crépeau, due in no small part to new coach Phil Neville having gotten to know more about him via Neville’s stint as an assistant coach on the CanMNT staff last year.

“I wanted a long-term project, to have ambition, to get my hands on silverware again and have a good group and a fantastic city,” he said. “Providence is a fantastic place and I have been always feeling really comfortable playing at Providence. I’ve always felt good in that building, I don’t know why, there’s places like this in the league you just feel comfortable, and Providence was one of them. As well as when I talked to Ned [Grabavoy, the Timbers’ general manager], I talked to Phil, we were head down – let’s make it happen, let’s work together.”

Despite some early blemishes – only San Jose (17) have given up more goals than the 14 PTFC have conceded in their first seven matches, on many of which Crépeau was left out to dry – he’s enthused with the materials and collective mindset Neville & Co. have to work with in Stumptown.

“I believe the potential is incredible,” said Crépeau. “We have youth, quality, experience at some places as well, where we could be a very, very, very, very good team on the 34 games of the year. The struggle that we have to face is just to play 90 minutes of full concentration, without any lapses mentally, and taking care of the ball in different areas of the field. But we are very good in our system when we will respect it.”

Things have been streaky thus far, a 2W-0L-1D start followed by a three-game losing skid. But last week’s rousing comeback from a 3-0 deficit in Kansas City to snatch a 3-3 draw fuels belief heading into Saturday’s duel with the reigning West champs.

“These games. we’ve learned about the mistakes that we have done. And then now it’s all about looking forward, learning about these little mistakes, these little shaky moments,” said Crépeau. “Every team will have them, now it’s about how you address it. And I do believe that we’re doing the due diligence to erase these little moments, to make sure that we are we are receiving a home playoff game at the end of the year.

“That’s the objective, and obviously silverware, but silverware is easy to say, difficult to do. So there’s a lot of work between now and then.”

Copa América run with Canada?

If all proceeds on course, Crépeau will also navigate a substantial summer side project with Canada: a Copa America on US soil, where they face a rugged Group A assignment alongside Chile, Peru and Leo Messi’s Argentina, the tournament’s reigning champs.

“We will face nations that are world-class,” he said of the CanMNT’s weighty upcoming schedule. “We have the Netherlands [warm-up friendly] in early June, there were rumors in the French papers that we might get a game in France at some point, and then Argentina, Peru, Chile, which, you know the level is very, very, very good. We will arrive, Canada, as maybe the underdogs because historically we haven’t got the results against the bigger nations.”

Crépeau earned the start in last month’s play-in victory over Trinidad & Tobago, a vital step forward in his own aspirations to be the man in the nets when the program greets the globe with World Cup matches on home soil come 2026.

“We’ve done quite well when we look at the performances at the [‘22] World Cup, but the results were not there,” he said. “Games are played in the midfield, but they decided in the 18-yard box, which, we need to raise our games defensively, not conceding, and offensively being ruthless and getting our chances. But it’s very exciting for the national team because as I mentioned, these are challenges that will prepare us for ‘26.”

Considering what he’s endured and achieved over the past two years, he’ll be savoring the next two like never before.

“Personally my goal is just to to be the best version of myself for the country,” he said. “It’s a massive honor every time you get the honor to wear the jersey, because you don’t know when that, unfortunately, happens again. So always ready to go.”

Read More

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *