Sam Piette was back in his more customary role on Saturday, breaking down moves, winning ball and sweeping up in front of his defenders.
It’s where he feels most effective after an education honing his defensive skills from Dusseldorf, across northern Spain and on to Montreal. His midfield fulcrum with the experienced Victor Wanyama was one of the key successes as CF Montreal smoothly transitioned between defence and attack, outsmarting Toronto FC, its oldest foe.
“It’s a big dose of confidence, that win over Toronto,” said Piette.
“It’s good to see that what we worked on in training was what we applied on match day. We didn’t deviate. It’s a big moment of relief for the coaches too and for Wilfried Nancy in his first game in charge. They are the ones who brought this tactic to us and we’ve all seen it working.“
It’s accurate to say Toronto was understrength however there was a markedly different complexion on the Montreal team. They didn’t let the Reds dictate. It wasn’t a case of sitting deep and picking the moment to raid Ontario ranks. They owned the ball right from the off, showing so much intent a lead was established before the game was even three minutes old.
Perhaps it took a Toronto side, arguably weary from their Champions League exertions, by surprise. It certainly rocked them back on their heels and Montreal were in no mood to veer from the plan. They continued to press. In the past having gone in front, a more conservative approach was likely, but this looked different.
“The tactic or identity we want to establish with the ball is to go forward, being patient, but as soon as we loose it we want to win it back right away,” said Piette.
“We will put numbers up front to create chances and be offensive, but as soon as we loose possession, it’s not a case of just turning and running back to our box.
“We want to win the ball back as soon as possible and of course the closer you can win the ball to the opponent’s goal, it gives you a better chance to score.”
One swallow doesn’t a summer make, and new standards will need to be sustained over a longer period to truly convince, but last time I saw Montreal looking as smooth in transition was during the early days of Mauro Biello’s reign. And back then much of that was down to the individual brilliance of a certain Argentinian #10.
Piette speaks of the contrast between the Piatti era and now. “We have very good players offensively, and although we don’t have a Nacho Piatti, because we all know what Nacho could do, it’s more focused now on the team, rather than on individual brilliance.”
Heat in southern Florida is a factor, but style is becoming a priority too, as the squad renews strategically. “We don’t want to be a team that parks the bus.”
“I know in the past we have done that at certain times and recall well, the first couple of games I played against Toronto.
“They were the team that had the possession, they dictated the play, but I think on Saturday, we did that and it’s what we plan to do all season long.
“Obviously when you have the ball you can rest as well. We played at 2pm, it was really hot. When you have the ball, you don’t have to chase it, so that’s the aim. The mindset is changing, slowly but surely.
“We tried to do the same last year, to be a front-foot team. Now we are a year further on in development, and I think we did that really well against Toronto.”
Yesterday Victor Wanyama talked about hunger and desire within a vibrant squad, today Sam Piette opened up on technical and strategic tweaks.
It all went wonderfully well on day one. The squad now prepares for Tennessee and Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium on Saturday, where their hosts came back from two goals down to tie with overhauled, FC Cincinnati on Opening Weekend.
Last Saturday’s feelings of exaltation will be significantly tempered should Montreal not return from The Volunteer State without at least one further point in the kitty. It’s something not lost on Montreal’s #6...
“We need to repeat [last weekend] this Saturday against Nashville. If we mis-step or deviate from what we did last weekend ... well then [the win] against Toronto won’t be worth as much. “
Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 25). Recorded Wednesday evening (14 April), the TBIR team discusses the CFM v TFC clash (with special guest Michael Singh of Waking The Red website, Montreal football issues of the week, their top three picks for per Conference, Concacaf Champions League & Canada’s WNT in the UK...
Plus all the usual favourite features... including, Eve’s Time Machine... Don’t miss it!
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