There are weeks that are more defining than others in a season, and CF Montreal is about to experience one.
After securing four straight wins, including three in MLS, the Bleu-blanc-noir will test their renewed confidence by taking on Toronto FC – their fiercest rivals – not once, but twice in the space of four days. .
The first duel will take place this Tuesday evening at BMO Field as part of the quarter-finals of the Canadian Championship. And after this potentially colorful game, the two clubs will meet on Saturday at Saputo Stadium, where they will try to get a good result to climb the Eastern Conference standings.
But before leaping too far back in time, CF Montreal must go one game at a time, as their quest for a sixth Voyageurs Cup could come to an abrupt end.
And there is no doubt that for defender Joel Waterman, who was in uniform last year when the TFC crushed CF Montreal 4-0 in the semi-finals of the Canadian Championship, this game is as important as those played in MLS.
“We take this game very seriously. We want to win the Canadian Championship and add another trophy for this club. Every time we play Toronto, we want to beat them as much as they want to beat us. Last year’s game doesn’t matter to us anymore. They got us for that day, but we’ll be ready for Tuesday,” Waterman insisted.
The road to the Canadian title usually involves an uphill battle against Toronto FC.
Since the tournament was created in 2008, CF Montreal has played 22 games against the Toronto club. The two teams have met four times in the final since the end of the round robin format in 2011, and the Montrealers have come out on top three times.
Acquired from Inter Miami CF a few weeks ago, Costa Rican Ariel Lassiter will experience his first career Canadian derby. However, he has already grasped the importance of these duels for both groups of supporters.
“I know these games against Toronto mean the world to the fans and to the team. I’ve been through similar things before in my career and I’m proud to be on this side of the rivalry,” he said.
“I played Toronto when I was playing for Miami and it was always tough. They have a lot of talent. The important thing is to execute our game plan and play as a team. »
And there’s no denying it, TFC has talent.
You just have to look at the Italians Federico Bernardeschi or Lorenzo Insigne, who notably played in Serie A and who won Euro 2020 with their country. Otherwise, there is also the American Michael Bradley or the Canadians Jonathan Osorio, Richie Laryea and Mark-Anthony Kaye, who all wore the colors of their nation at the last Soccer World Cup.
Although Toronto FC are looking a little tough in MLS this season, with a 2-3-6 record, CF Montreal defenders will have to be on the lookout to control their opponents’ attacks.
“Insigne is a very good player. We have to play physical against him and make sure he feels our presence. We can’t give them time between the lines and with the ball,” Waterman argued.
“Insigne, Bernardeschi, they are world-class players,” added head coach Hernán Losada. They have a lot of individual qualities and in an instant they can be decisive and win a game. TFC may still be looking for their collective momentum, but they could be much higher in the standings. We give him a lot of respect. »
The first game against Toronto will mark the start of a four-game streak in 11 days for the Bleu-blanc-noir. The depth of the squad has been tested since the start of the season due to numerous injuries, but little by little the players are returning to the lineup.
Losada still does not know how he intends to use his men for the upcoming games, but he assured that his strategy does not change between the Canadian Championship and MLS.
“It gives us less time to recover, but for me, Canadian Championship games are special and very important,” he said. The only difference with MLS is that it’s all or nothing on Tuesday. If you wake up feeling bad or unfocused, you’re out. We will see if it is possible to rotate, but we want to remain competitive. »
Losada has confirmed that midfielder Matko Miljevic will join the group in Toronto. The head coach already knows that Waterman will be suspended for one match in MLS due to an accumulation of yellow cards. It should therefore not be surprising to see him in the starting lineup for the Canadian Championship.
Striker Romell Quioto and midfielder Lassi Lappalainen meanwhile returned to action on Saturday, in a win against Orlando City SC, and they could be available on Tuesday.