Welcome to MLS NOW's CF Montreal 2023 season preview. After a long off-season, the MLS is finally back. Professional football is returning to the "Belle Province" of Quebec as CF Montreal take on Inter Miami at DRV PNK stadium. Let's get right into it.
Last season: The 2022 season was CF Montreal's best ever season in MLS, clinching 2nd spot in the East and 3rd in the race for the supporters shield, just 2 points behind the likes of LAFC and the Union. This marvelous season also saw Montreal break the record for most away wins in a season with 11 wins on the road.
Montreal won their first round matchup vs Orlando city in the playoffs but felt short to former champions NYCFC at Stade Saputo.
The Offseason: To have a better understanding of Montreal's offseason, it is important to know the clubs philosophy. After major financial losses during the pandemic, the club has opted for a buy low, sell high transfer policy which makes Montreal sort of a stepping stone for players, and this is exactly what Montreal did in this offseason.
After a record breaking year, Montreal sold 3 important first team players : most notably Djordje Mihailovic who was acquired from the Chicago fire for 1.3 Million euros, and after spent 2 years in Montreal, he was sold to AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands for 6 million euros. Montreal also sold Johnston and Kone for a combined 11.5 million euros. So its fair to say that this strategy has been working out for now.
After losing these 3 important pieces, as well as Torres to the Union, Montreal has made two intra-MLS moves: center back George Campbell from Atlanta United as well as right back Aaron Herrera from RSL who looks to be a direct replacement for Johnston. The two less notable signings are Ilias Iliadis from Greece as well as young Canadian forwad Jules-Anthony Vilsaint.
The Coach: As if losing three major pieces of the team wasn't enough, CF Montreal has lost their manager Wilfried Nancy to none other than MLS and east conference rivals, the Columbus Crew. I can confidently say that a lot of us Montreal fans did not appreciate this move, but I would be lying if I said that I was surprised, as Nancy and team owner Joey Saputo were not on good terms specially after an " incident " that occurred between them following the teams loss to SKC last season.
To replace Nancy, the club appointed former DC united head coach Hernan Losada. Several DC players have criticized his way of working as being too harsh and when questioned about it he said : "I am a young coach. It was my first experience (with DC United in MLS). But I come here hoping to improve as a coach, but also as a person".
From the preseason games, it looks like he will keep the same formation as last year which is a 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 but will add his " personal touch" to the style of play.
Kamara: Kei Kamara signed with CF Montreal last summer on a 1 year deal + option for a second and he came in firing on all cylinders. From scoring 9 goals, giving 7 assists (at 38!) but also spending time with the academy and giving advice to the younger players, it is fair to say that Montreal has benefited greatly from Kei.
Having the option for an extra year with the same salary, Montreal decided to activate it and then negotiate a new contract with Kei that would see him get a salary increase, but also possibly a future at the club beyond his playing career, but Kamara refused the offer stating that " it was not enough money" and that would not be enough to move his family to Montreal. Montreal are open to a trade but in a recent interview with IMFC Radio, assistant sporting director Vassili Cremanzidis has stated that " the telephone did not ring for Kamara yet". We fans just want this to be done with, either Kamara staying the year giving his all or just ripping the contract and let him go into free agency.
The Team: Projected 11 vs Miami
This is what I think the starting lineup will look like on Saturday. With CB Joel Waterman reportedly training apart from the group and being a doubt for the game ,as well as Campbell out injured, I think Herrera could slot in to RCB with Brault-Guillard getting the start on the right flank.
The natural successor to Mihailovic was Miljevic but he is out for 8 to 12 weeks after having undergone surgery to his knee, so I can see Homegrown player Mathieu Choiniere ( who can play in any position) getting the start ahead of the returning Sean Rea who spent the last 2 seasons in the CPL.
The attack consists of " el Romantico" Romell Quioto who finished last year as Montreal's top scorer with 15 goals and 6 assists. Partnering him up top, I have Mason Toye (looking to return to form after a tough injury plagued season) starting ahead of Kei Kamara as I don't think he will be getting the start after all the drama that happened during the off season.
Thanks for viewing our CF Montreal 2023 preview. Don't forget to check out our podcasts as well as our previews for the other MLS teams. Have a good season !