CF Montreal lives to fight another day.
Play-off qualification rarely comes easy for the Montreal club and this season is proving no different.
Defenders came to the fore last night claiming both crucial goals within a 5 minute second-half period to keep post-season hopes alive.
Rudy Camacho, much maligned throughout much of his CFM/IMFC career but having a happier time in Montreal these days, broke the deadlock on 58 minutes. Timing was good; his team between the game’s restart and his goal was experiencing its most difficult period of the game.
The goal was all about the Frenchman’s improvisation, Camacho’s heel applying the finishing touch, the defender finding himself back to goal in the danger area.
It all resulted from a Mihailovic corner. The young American who provided a direct assist just four minutes later from the same side of the field for Miller’s first Montreal goal, further underlined claims to the title of MVP in his first season at the club. It was Djordje’s 16th assist of the season, extending his own club record. Only New England’s Carles Gil in MLS has more in 2021.
It was of course a crucial win. Montreal attacked constantly throughout a frustrating first-half which failed to yield the much-needed breakthrough. Mathieu Choiniere was prominent, enjoying one of his best displays against an unambitious opponent deploying banks of orange shirts behind the ball.
Those goals settled Montreal nerves after an uncertain restart to the game during which the Dynamo briefly threatened.
In many ways Houston at home was the perfect combination for CFM, with Orlando City looming Sunday, knowing they must be faultless in their two remaining games. El Naranja, a depressing season behind them, last scored an MLS goal at Stade Saputo in 2012 and had lost all six of their previous visits to the venue. With yet another Quebec blank, they’ve now gone 585 minutes without scoring away to Montreal.
With task one achieved a ‘cup final’ now presents itself, and the equation is simple for the Stade Saputo men, who again enjoy home advantage against The Lions. Win and you’re in, anything less and MLS goes on the 2022 back-burner, all focus shifting solely towards the upcoming Canadian Championship Final against, unsurprisingly, Toronto FC.
Sunday’s is by no means a test beyond Montreal. In two games at Orlando this season they remained undefeated, winning one and hitting their highest road tally of the season (four), although it should be remembered Orlando ended that particular game with only 9 players.
Also last night Montreal welcomed back from injury Victor Wanyama making his 50th appearance for the club (all starts) and top scorer Romell Quioto, who entered the fray as a second-half substitute. Each man’s fitness, or lack of, will bear telling influence on how MLS 2021 concludes for their club.
The final round of games all kick-off at 3.30 on Sunday. A full Stade Saputo would do much to encourage Wilfried Nancy’s charges over the line in his first full season as head coach...
... it may also encourage the club to resume publishing attendance figures (a normal practise recently halted) in line with all other clubs in MLS.
CFMTL: Breza - Brault-Guillard, Waterman, Camacho, Miller, Choiniere - Hamdy (Piette, 67), Wanyama (Maciel, 67) - Torres (Miljevic, 83), Mihailovic (Lappalainen, 74) - Sunusi (Quioto, 66)
Bench not used: Pantemis, Bassong, Bayiha, Johnsen
Head Coach: Wilfried Nancy
Houston: Morton - Hoffman, Fuenmayor, Parker, Junqua, Lundqvist - Vera (Corona, 61), Ceren (Carrasquilla, 71) - Dorsey (Pasher, 62), Rodriguez (Castilla, 81) - Lassiter (Picault, 71)
Bench not used: Maric, Valentin, Jones, Garcia
Head Coach: Tab Ramos
Referee: Ted Unkel
Asst Refs: Kyle Atkins, Peter Balciunas
4th Official: Drew Fisher
VAR: Jon Freeman
Asst VAR: Robert Schapp