MONTREAL — With 10 games left in its regular season, and all focus on landing a Major League Soccer playoff berth, CF Montreal is preparing for the New England Revolution's visit to Stade Saputo on Saturday night.
After a narrow 3-2 victory in the Canadian Classique over the struggling Toronto FC, the weekend opponent should present a tougher challenge for Montreal (10-12-2).
After missing the playoffs last year, the Revolution (12-4-7) were quick to re-establish themselves as one of the best teams in MLS, currently sitting second in the 15-team Eastern Conference. Montreal is in eighth place.
“Even with Carles Gil and (Emmanuel) Boateng as question marks, it (New England) remains a very good team with a lot of experience,” said Montreal head coach Hernan Losada.
“All the opponents coming up are tough in this league. We have 10 games left so we have 10 finals.”
Montreal’s stretch run is nothing short of challenging. In order to make the playoffs it will need to collect points against teams that are breathing down its neck.
With the gap between third and 11th place being just 11 points, every positive result could be vital come the end of the season.
“We don’t need to look at the standings to know exactly where we are on the table. We’re just fighting for that seventh, eighth, ninth spot,” said Montreal defender Aaron Herrera. “Every game at home is huge for us, so we’re looking to get three points at home every time we can.”
Montreal also has a strong record when the East’s best visit Stade Saputo. They have already beat four of the top six in the conference at home this season, with New England and FC Cincinnati left to play.
Despite being only one of two teams that remain unbeaten at home, the Revolution have not been as infallible away from Gillette Stadium, holding only the 10th-best road record. That, coupled with the fact Montreal holds one of the best home records, makes this match far from the foregone conclusion it seemed to be earlier in the season.
Back in April, an injury- and suspension-riddled Montreal travelled to New England and was crushed 4-0. That served as rock bottom to the team’s terrible start to the season.
“We had a bad game over there and it was really bad timing as well because they were in very good form,” said Losada. “Now for them, it’s been a long time since they’ve played because they didn’t play last week.”
Much like Montreal, New England has gone an extended period of time without playing a game due to its early exit from the Leagues Cup three weeks ago. Despite that, Montreal still has the issue of its inconsistent attack that needs to be addressed.
New England has shown all season to be comfortable without the ball, hitting back on the counter, and making the most of its opportunities that could put Montreal’s newest strike pairing to the test.
Jules-Anthony Vilsaint and Mahal Opoku are both in their first season with the club but have shown signs of a promising chemistry in Montreal’s last two outings. They have created numerous chances and have fed off each another.
“We clicked right away, and we have a lot of similarities on the field. We’re both very technical players and we like looking for each other and making plays as often as possible,” said Vilsaint, who was the driving force behind two goals against Toronto before having to leave the game with a knock to his calf.
“Since the beginning of the season, I’ve always felt like I was a game changer and I’ve been saying it since I got here, so I’m just going to keep that mentality.”
It will be a considerably more difficult test against a top-tier defence such as New England’s, which has only conceded 28 goals this season.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2023.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press