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CF Montreal looking to end homestand with win against Red Bulls

MONTREAL — With their three-game homestand coming to a close, CF Montreal are looking to build some momentum heading into a match against New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening.
CF Montreal's head coach Hernan Losada looks on from the sideline during second half MLS soccer action against the Philadelphia Union in Montreal, Saturday, March 18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — With their three-game homestand coming to a close, CF Montreal are looking to build some momentum heading into a match against New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening. 

Amid a worst-ever start to a season for Montreal (1-6-1), a Canadian Championship win against third-division Vaughan Azzurri this Tuesday has only done so much to boost the team’s morale.

“This is going to be a completely different game against a team that’s at an entirely different level,” said head coach Hernan Losada. “We know Red Bulls’ quality and their style is very clear. This won’t be the same process as Tuesday.”

New York (1-2-5) has not had a good start to its season either, struggling offensively and salvaging a single point from each of its last two home games in stoppage time. 

The Red Bulls' trademark high-pressing and aggressive style of play is well-known throughout Major League Soccer and could cause a number of problems for a Montreal back line struggling to build out from the back.

Last season, centre backs Rudy Camacho, Kamal Miller and Joel Waterman along with midfielder Victor Wanyama were among the most effective and reliable progressive passers in the league. This season, they have struggled to string passes together and often resorted to sending long balls to a striker in order to move the ball forward.

“I haven’t been satisfactory at all so far; I don’t feel too great and I’m not bringing what is needed to the team," said Camacho. "There are a lot of things that are missing right now, but those are things we have to sort out on our own.

“Hopefully (the win against Vaughan) gave us a little more confidence on the ball, but we’ll only be able to tell when we play on Saturday.” 

While the defensive struggles have been on full display by conceding a league-high 17 goals, the team’s attack is struggling just as much. Besides Sporting Kansas City’s two goals, no MLS team has scored fewer than Montreal’s three, only one of which happened with both teams playing with 11 players.

Montreal’s attacking philosophy is clearly in a rut with very little supply from the midfield and even less penetration. New arrivals Ariel Lassiter and Bryce Duke have brought a breath of fresh air and enthusiasm that has otherwise been lacking in recent games. 

Lassiter was the first of the two to find their way onto the scoresheet, assisting in Montreal’s second goal against Vaughan.

“I try to find spaces in behind and using my speed to get more assists or goals or just stretch the defence,” said Lassiter. “Coming from the outside, we can just bring a little more life to help the team. Bryce and I had a difficult period last year in Miami, but we turned it around and there’s no doubt that we’ll be able to do that here.”

Montreal’s injury crisis also seems to be slowly dissipating. Defenders George Campbell and Robert Thorkelsson both featured in the Canadian Championship victory, with Ousmane Jabang playing the part of unused substitute. 

There is also a slew of others expected to return within the next two weeks. 

Fullbacks Jojea Kwizera and Lassi Lappalainen are both on the verge of coming back from lower-body injuries, goalkeeper and Canadian International James Pantemis is expected to resume training with the squad shortly, and Matko Miljevic will be returning from a three-month-long recovery from knee surgery in Argentina.

Kickoff at Stade Saputo is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2023.

Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press