After a rocky start to the season that saw it bow out of the CONCACAF Champions League and start its Major League Soccer campaign with three consecutive losses, CF Montréal appears to have righted the ship.
Now on a five-game unbeaten streak in all competitions, the club is faced with its biggest challenge yet — a rematch on the road with the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union.
"I like playing against teams that in form. It’s a great way to see where we’re at as a club," said Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy. "(Philadelphia) has been playing together for four-five years and they’re really comfortable with the philosophy. Now, they can play their games with their eyes closed, the secret to their success is that consistency."
There was no shortage of controversy when these teams last met in Montreal on March 5.
After Montreal took the lead in the first half, Djordje Mihailovic picked the ball up at midfield and dribbled through the entire Philadelphia defence before scoring and seemingly putting the hosts up 2-0.
However, a VAR check disallowed the goal for a foul that had been committed before that play. In the following five minutes, Philadelphia would turn the game on its head and score twice, leaving Montreal with all three points.
“One thing we struggled with the last couple of games even if we’ve won the last three games in a row is when we have a lead we can’t slow down,” said Mihailovic. “Not just the best teams in the league but the best teams in the world, if they have a two-goal lead, they’re going to go for and third, fourth, or fifth goal and put the game away and that’s what we need to do.”
Montreal's inability to close out games has been a recurring theme of late and was one of the reasons they missed out on a playoff spot last year.
Philadelphia suffered its first loss of the season 2-1 at Toronto FC last weekend and the Union slipped behind West-leading Los Angeles FC in the race for the Supporter’s Shield.
Still, the Union boast the second-best defence in the league, providing another test Nancy and his high-octane philosophy.
“Those guys have been playing together for a while and they know all their jobs,” said Montreal forward Kei Kamara. “We have respect for all the other teams we’ve played, but in this locker room you don’t see anybody intimidated by anyone.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2022.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press