They may have only been Canada’s second-best performing MLS outfit this season, but yesterday CF Montreal confirmed its position as the country’s champion club for 2021.
And with that (more importantly) comes qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League.
Top scorer for the past two seasons Romell Quioto claimed the all-important goal - his career sixth (one with Houston) against Toronto FC - in the 72nd minute. It was an exquisite finish after latching onto Rudy Camacho’s long through ball. Quioto broke his run forward on the edge of the box and planted a perfect lob over the advancing Westberg in goal.
It was the former US u20 international goalkeeper that Toronto had to thank for keeping them in the game this long. The Reds, wearing grey were hugely off-colour and looked all the world like a side more determined to go on holiday than win a cup final.
Without Jozy Altidore (feeling ill, officially) and losing talisman and reigning MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo in the 16th minute, they were a pale shadow of a team, yet were a hair’s breadth off taking the game to an undeserved penalty shoot-out.
Quite how home-grown Jordan Perruzza missed claiming an equalizer, only he will know. Ninety minutes were on the clock and simply his finish was in keeping with the scrappy move which saw Achara bundle the ball forward; Perruzza’s scuffed side-footer managing only to find the post from close-in.
It was an incredibly lucky break for Montreal, whose defensive organization for once in this game had gone haywire. But again the moment underlined the importance, if it were not already well-known, of taking your chances at the other end.
Montreal should have been out of sight, such was the ease with which they exerted superiority over their opponent. As early as the 11th second Quioto broke through. The Honduran also went one on one with Westberg after spinning Dunn (40 mins). Each time the Toronto keeper’s feet came to the rescue.
In between another opportunity beckoned as he got ahead of Bradley to meet Choiniere’s front post cross in the 18th minute, but this time Quioto could not make the right connection.
Quioto was causing all kinds of problems for an unfamiliar Toronto defence while Mihailovic found passes between the lines. But the goal would not come, until that 72nd minute when Quioto’s persistence finally paid off.
It took Toronto until the 90th minute to wake up and until that scare involving the substitute Perruzza, Montreal looked as comfortable as a side holding the slenderest of leads possibly could.
“Yes, it took a while to score that goal, but I didn’t feel my players were in danger, they were in control. The goal arrived. After that, it’s normal for the opposition to put pressure on, but I felt my players were strong,” said Nancy.
The coach went on... “This is the story of our season. We should have scored earlier in the game. We didn’t, but I was confident. At half-time I told my players to stay positive, that if we kept playing like this, we would have our chances of scoring.“
Goalkeeper Sebastian Breza who was named tournament MVP on one of his quietest-ever days felt sure of victory once the breakthrough came. “This goal did a lot of good. The whole game we felt we were pressuring them, but just couldn’t score. When the goal arrived, there was a big sigh. After that, we knew we just had to keep the result for the rest of the game. “
For Toronto a not insignificant building process must develop rapidly before next season. 2021 has been wretched for the Reds, whose performance on the day was a reflection of their last eight months.
Montreal look set to continue the Renard Renaissance and will seek to strengthen in anticipation of another crack at continental football. The first Champions League game is less than three months away. But anyone who recalls that wonderful run of 2015 will surely not complain about that....
CFM: Breza - Brault-Guillard (Bassong, 60), Choiniere, Waterman, Camacho, Miller - Wanyama, Hamdy - Mihailovic, Torres (Lappalainen, 73) - Quioto (Piette, 78)
Bench (not used): Pantemis, Miljevic, Maciel, Ibrahim
Head Coach - Wilfried Nancy
TFC: Westberg - Dunn, Laryea, Bradley, Dunn - Osorio, Okello (Perruzza, 78), Delgado - Pozuelo (Achara, 16) - Dwyer (Soteldo, 78), Schaffelburg (DeLeon, 78)
Bench (not used): Bono, Morrow, Marshall-Rutty
Head Coach - Javier Perez
Match Officials -
Referee: David Gantar (last match before retirement)
Asst Refs: Chris Wattam, Lyes Arta
4th Official: Yusri Rudolf