CF Montreal’s early season often sees the team rack up a few Air Miles points, but players won’t complain about finally playing their home opener.
The least we can say is that the Bleu-blanc-noir didn’t take a vacation by suffering three shutout losses in Florida, Texas and Tennessee to start its 2023 season.
However, he could choose the right time to sign his first win of the campaign by defeating the Philadelphia Union (2-1-0), which will be at Olympic Stadium on Saturday evening.
As has been the regular case since arriving in MLS in 2012, CF Montreal plays the majority of its first games of the season away from home and the players are feeling the brunt of that for now. The many trips and changes in temperature, surface and routine may partly explain the poor results after three games, and probably the impressive number of injuries.
The team, which is struggling to breathe, will certainly not say no to the energy that its supporters will provide on Saturday.
“We have traveled a lot in the last month and it will feel good to play in front of our fans and have their support. It will also feel good not having to catch a flight after our game and arrive in Montreal in the wee hours of the morning, ”said Montreal head coach Hernan Losada.
In a sign that it’s not an easy task, Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy are the other two MLS teams not to have played at home this season and they are also in search of a first victory.
Hosting the Union, CF Montreal knows what to expect, not least because they spent much of the past season chasing the Philadelphia squad for the Eastern Conference No. 1 spot.
After losing a heartbreaking penalty shootout in the MLS Cup Final, the Union picked up where they left off by winning two of their first three games this season. Jim Curtain’s men also come back from a convincing 4-0 victory against Alianza FC on Tuesday, which gave them access to the quarter-finals of the Concacaf Champions League.
According to Losada, the strength of the Union lies in their stability from season to season.
“Their formation is very good and the players play as a unit. For the last three or four years, they’ve fielded a pretty similar team. They replace a striker or a midfielder here and there, but otherwise it’s the same solid foundation. They are used to playing together and they have a very good head coach. We know they will be a very tough team to beat.”
Unlike the Nashville SC defense, which has yet to allow a goal in three games this season, the Union’s defense is not infallible. If we add the support of the crowd, the ingredients may be in place for the Montreal team to score its first goal of the campaign.
Despite some good attacking moments in their first three games, CF Montreal didn’t really create clear chances near the enemy net. In fact, the club is quietly approaching the Toronto FC record for most minutes without a goal to start a season (383).
Losada however sees a progression in the game of its players and some of them are of the opinion that the results will come.
“I think we’re getting better as a team and I think the more games go on the better we play. We have little automatisms that are coming. I think you just have to be a little more on the same page in the final third and the scoring opportunities will keep coming,” observed Quebecer Mathieu Choinière.
Forward Sunusi Ibrahim believes he has found part of the problem.
“I think we lack communication and connection between forwards and midfielders. Last year we had a lot of chances to score. We didn’t always get them, but we scored a lot of goals because there was this communication when it was handed over,” he said.
Even if the Montrealers are not having their best streak currently, Curtain expects great opposition from them, in front of a hostile crowd.
“We want to build on the momentum of this great performance in the Champions League, but we will face our biggest challenge of the season. It will be their home opener and it will be tough. They’re going to be looking to impress their fans,” Curtain said during a media availability earlier this week.
Some would say he used an age-old trick to make sure his players kept their focus. It remains to be seen if the strategy will work.