(Montreal) Patience is said to be a virtue and the encouraging signs the CF Montreal defense has shown recently seem to prove that saying right.
Everything fell apart for the Bleu-blanc-noir at the beginning of April. After suffering a 5-0 loss at the hands of the Whitecaps in Vancouver, he was beaten 4-0 by the Revolution in Foxborough.
Despite the difficult start to the season and the results that did not arrive, head coach Hernan Losada maintained the same speech. He asked his players to stay united and the supporters to be patient.
The 1-0 loss at Stade Saputo to D.C. United two weeks ago did nothing to calm the discontent, but suddenly, back-to-back 2-0 wins at home against Vaughan Azzurri and the Red Bulls of New York, proved that Losada may have been right.
“The defense, the moments of pressure, the low blocks, it’s all played with 11 players. After the first quarter of an hour, we had a good game defensively against the Red Bulls. The fighting spirit has been exceptional for all players. This is the mentality we want to keep for the whole season. Everyone’s body language was positive,” Losada said Thursday before the Montrealers practiced at Center Nutrilait.
The wake-up call came following the trade that sent veteran defender Kamal Miller to Inter Miami CF for midfielder Bryce Duke and forward Ariel Lassiter.
Of course, Miller wasn’t to blame for all of CF Montreal’s defensive woes and it’s clear that confidence seems to be growing on the field, both in practice and in games.
Especially since during the duel against the Red Bulls, the Losada troops were able to protect a one-goal lead for 25 minutes when they had to manage 10 against 11.
“We’re focused on our form defensively. Not just the five players at the back, but the whole team. We are comfortable and we look in good spirits, said defender Joel Waterman. Against the Red Bulls, we also blocked shots and did what it took to get a shutout. We would like to have 11 players on the pitch, but it gave us confidence to defend with 10.”
“When our opponent has the ball, when they counterattack, we seem more settled, more compact and ready to defend as a team. With more games and cohesion, we will be even better,” added defender George Campbell.
Waterman is one of those veterans who has recently taken his game up a notch. After looking poorly on a few occasions against the Whitecaps and the Revolution, he has fared better in his last two outings.
Since Miller’s departure, the 27-year-old British Columbian has been used on the left side of the field, where he has never played in his MLS career.
“I’m starting to find my game, but it’s hard to adjust to this left side. It will take me some time to create games and open the game on this side. It’s different from last year because I played all season on the right. It takes adjustments and I really want to help the team defensively,” Waterman said.
CF Montreal vice-president and chief athletic officer Olivier Renard added depth to the defense a month ago by bringing in Gabriele Corbo, who played 14 games with the team in 2022.
Campbell, acquired from Atlanta United in the offseason, meanwhile returned to action last week, playing 15 minutes against Vaughan Azzurri and one minute against the Red Bulls.
Campbell had made a good impression in training camp before sustaining a long-term injury following a tackle from teammate Mason Toye. The great defender now says he is ready to come and earn a position at the back, regardless of where on the field, even if the competition is fierce at this position.
“The competition is very healthy and it’s a good thing to have so many very good centre-backs. I’m confident in my abilities so I feel like I can help the team as much as anyone, if not more. I want to deserve a position and be up for it, no matter where the coach wants me to play. It’s good to have competition in this position because we will need it during the season,” he noted.
Several players have made progress with their injuries, including midfielders Samuel Piette, Matko Miljevic and Lassi Lappalainen as well as striker Romell Quioto, but Losada says none of them will be back in the game Saturday night against Sporting Kansas City.