Gagnon-Laparé turning heads with Impact

Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare in action for Canada. (Ronald Zak/AP)

MONTREAL—Jeremy Gagnon-Laparé isn’t a typical soccer player, and at the same time, there’s nothing about him that immediately seems out of the ordinary.

He isn’t especially quick or big and nor does his play carry any gleam of flare or flamboyance. Everything he does just seems rather simple and unassuming.

But there’s something a little more subtle that sets the 19-year-old Montreal Impact midfielder apart—something that caught the eye of Canada coach Benito Floro a year ago, after observing him play with the Canadian under-18 team at the COTIF youth tournament in Spain.

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“There are two kinds of speed: physical speed and tactical speed. Jeremy is tactically quick. He executes quickly,” Floro told Sportsnet. “In the field the most important question is the tactical mentality. I realized then he was a very good player.”

While Gagnon-Laparé was still 18 and playing with the Impact’s youth academy, he was called up with the Canada’s national team for training camp in Spain last September and made his debut with the Reds in the first of two friendly matches with Mauritania. He was also called up for Canada’s two friendly games in Austria against Bulgaria and Moldova last May.

In a unique twist, Gagnon-Laparé made his national team debut before he even signed his first pro deal with the Impact.

“We were surprised by his Canadian selection, that’s for sure,” Impact academy director Philippe Eullaffroy said of Gagnon-Laparé’s national team call-up.

In July, Gagnon-Laparé finally signed with the Impact’s first team in MLS, and has been a semi-regular starter, shuffling between central midfield and left fullback.

Montreal coach Frank Klopas has been impressed with Gagnon-Laparé’s maturity, that he hasn’t shown any of the stage-fright usually common with young rookies.

“For a player of his age to show so much composure and maturity is great to see,” Klopas said. “In the games that he’s played he’s been fantastic.”

Impact under-18 academy coach Wilfried Nancy, in an interview with La Presse, said that when he first met Gagnon-Lapare at 13, he gave him the nickname of “minipro” because he already behaved like a professional.

Eullaffroy also immediately recognized Gagnon-Laparé’s personal qualities, when he joined the Impact’s academy two and a half years ago from Quebec’s provincial program.

“He’s very mature, very very mature. He’s always listening, always taking seriously the advice we give him, and then applies them,” Eullaffroy said.

“He thinks about the game all the time; from the moment he wakes up in the morning to when he goes to bed at night, everything he does during the day revolves around his career and becoming a better player.

“Those are very important qualities for a soccer player to have”.

Gagnon-Laparé was instilled with these qualities from a very young age growing up in Magog, a popular area outside Sherbrooke for quiet and peaceful vacationing. His grandfather Jacques Gagnon was a soccer historian, a contributor to the Quebec Soccer Magazine, and a soccer analyst for TVA in the 1980s. His father André played professionally with the Montreal Supra before becoming a coach and technical director in the Estrie region.

“I’m someone that’s serious. I work hard in training. I try to do things well. I think I have a pretty good understanding of the game, which permits me to play in different positions and adapt,” Gagnon-Laparé said. “I’m not super quick, but I try to make up for that with a game that’s more technically proper.”

Because of his tactical nous, Floro also envisions Gagnon-Laparé playing in different positions such as in midfield, fullback or even as a winger. From a technical standpoint, Eullaffroy maintains Gagnon-Laparé would be best in midfield, because that’s where he’s most at ease.

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“We are convinced that he can bring the most in the midfield, for the quality of his passing. He’s capable of helping the game flow and playing the ball forward,” Eullaffroy said.

“When you put him as a defender, his technical qualities will have less influence on the game, and though he doesn’t tire easily, he’s not going to surprise anyone with his quickness on the outside, in the way that a Max Tissot can.

“I think his place, where he was formed, where he’s most comfortable, is in midfield.”

As for Gagnon-Laparé, he’s not too concerned about where he’s plays, just so long that he does.

“I’m trying to carve out a place for myself in the team as quickly as possible and get playing time—that’s always what we (players) look for,” He said. “It’s all about continuing to do the things that got me here, trying to concentrate on the things I can control, and not get worked up about anything else.”

Nick Sabetti is a Montreal-based writer. Follow him on Twitter

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