CF Montreal started their campaign with a 2-0 loss to Inter Miami at the DRV PNK stadium.
There is no sugar coating it, it was a bad performance from Losada's team and they were tactically dominated by Neville's Inter Miami. Here is what happened.
The first half : For the start of the game, as expected Aaron Herrera started at RCB for the injured Joel Waterman with ZBG taking the RB spot. Losada also gave a first ever MLS start to Nathan Saliba in the number "10" role and here is how the team looked overall.
Lassi Piette Wanyam ZBG
Miller Camacho Herrera
Montreal started the first half under constant pressure by Inter Miami. Montreal was known last year to build from the back , keep possession and press high but it was very clear that Miami's press affected that. Montreal kept losing the ball in the middle of the park, as there was not enough communication and cohesion between the players for some reason. We could not even see a style of play anymore, it was just get the ball and see what happens. When Quioto and Ibrahim would get the ball they were often isolated with no support as Piette and Wanyama are rather defensive midfielders and Saliba not having the attacking impact we thought he would have. It was only his first game in MLS so there is still plenty to learn for young Saliba but I think it was the wrong decision to start him ahead of Sean Rea.
As I said, there was no cohesion and the attackers were left isolated, but we can't put the full blame on the midfield. The two full backs were not as decisive as we thought they would be. Having 3 ( I wanna say ) defensive minded midfielders puts huge pressure on your full backs to run up and down the field, and it was clear that at some point, they could not keep up anymore, and that is very understandable.
CF Montreal did not press as much as we thought they would, but when they did, they created chances for themselves, notably a bad clearance from Callender resulting in an Ibrahim shot that was saved.
The " Impact" conceded off a corner late in the first half and were quick to get back on their feet as Quioto saw a header saved by Callender.
The second half: At the start of the second half, Losada swapped Choiniere for Saliba, in what looked like a direct sub. Choiniere gave the team a boost and energy, but the team was still lacking the attacking spark it had been waiting for, as Choiniere played a lot of different position over the years but not really as a third attacker or as the player behind the two Strikers that has the job to deliver the final ball. Then in the 60th minute, Sean Rea came on for ZBG. Now, this is an interesting substitution, as we all thought that Montreal would have shifted to a back four but Losada wanted Piette( who has never played CB before) to play as the third Center back, with Herrera taking over the wingback spot. I've got to say, in only 30 minutes of Herrera at RB but he did more than ZBG. It is clear that the idea was for him to start the year as a wingback. He was able to get a few good crosses in, but also combine with the midfielders and attackers to get balls into the final third. That was also largely due to Sean Rea. He was the missing piece that this team needed to connect the defense to the attack. he elevated everyone's game and if he was given the start I think the game would not have ended up the same way. Montreal eventually conceded a second goal and that put the game to bed. The only major thing that has happened after that is the injury to goalkeeper Pantemis. Pantemis apparently injured his shoulder, and we were told by Losada in the press conference that " it does not look good". Young goalkeeper Sirois, who spent the last two seasons on Loan in the Canadian Premier League had to step in at the end of the game and will be starting the next game against Austin FC.
What's next: Up next, CF Montreal is headed to Austin to take on Austin FC. I am honestly not very confident heading into this tie as I have Austin FC to win the Western Conference. The defeat to expansion team St Louis SC was an anomaly in what I think will be a very successful season, and they will be back to their best against Montreal next week having a point to prove to their fans.
For Montreal I am expecting Sean Rea to start after his performance against Miami. Joel Waterman has still not trained with the group so it is probable that he will miss this tie as well. It was reported that in today's training session, Losada tested out Piette as CB, so he would be able to move Herrera to his preferred wingback spot, where he proved to be a decisive player against Miami. Partnering Wanyama in the midfield was Saliba, with Rea and Choiniere playing as CAM's in front of them. If this is how the team is going to look I think we should expect Montreal to have a bit more of the ball against Austin FC .
Predictions : I am really trying to be positive here but I cannot see Montreal winning this game, ( I mean please, prove me wrong and win) but I think it will be a more organized performance from the Canadian team. I have Quioto in my fantasy MLS team so I backed him to score a goal, but I think that Montreal will fall 3-1 to Austin.
Thanks for reading this week's preview on CF Montreal and enjoy round two of MLS action