After suffering their third-worst loss in club history last week, CF Montreal are looking to climb out of the Eastern Conference basement as they travel to face the New England Revolution on Saturday night.
Montreal (1-4-0) has already accumulated as many road losses as it did all of last year in what is becoming a particularly poor start to the Major League Soccer season. Those four losses risk becoming five as New England (4-1-1) is unbeaten at home after collecting two wins and a draw.
“They’re a group that has stayed together for three or four years, they have a good balance of veterans and youth,” said Montreal head coach Hernan Losada about New England. “They also have an excellent coach which makes them a very solid team.”
The Revolution are back with a vengeance this year, currently third in the East with a fully fit squad after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2018 last season.
Juggling MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League proved to be too much for the club that was coming off a record-breaking 2021 season where they totalled the most points in league history.
Now back in good form, New England’s attack will be the latest in a long line of difficult challenges the Montreal back line has faced this season. In just five games, Montreal has conceded the second most goals in MLS with 12, five of which came last week against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Losada hinted at the defence being one of the club’s weaker points last week. That is something defender Joel Waterman agreed with, adding that veterans on the team like him need to step up during difficult stretches like this.
“I don’t think the defending has been good enough, not just our main three but everybody as a collective. As a team, we have to be harder to play against,” he said. “New England is more tough opposition, on the road again, so we can’t let their main men get on the ball easily and just focus on coming away with points on the road.”
The attacking side of the ball has not been much better. Montreal has only three goals so far, the fewest in the conference. The team also has yet to score on the road.
With the loss of Djordje Mihailovic, Kei Kamara, and Joaquin Torres in the off-season, Montreal’s new-look offence has struggled to find any kind of consistency.
The team has had a different attacking three in each game so far. Whether it’s lining up a striker and two wide players or two strikers and an attacking midfielder, they do not appear to be on the same page.
“That kind of bond forms in training. It’s still early in the season, but as the guys keep playing together, we’ll build better chemistry,” said rookie attacking midfielder Sean Rea. “After every game where we’ve struggled, we go and look at the video and always see what we did well and what to improve.”
Rea, last year’s Canadian Premier League under-21 player of the year, has shown sparks of his potential both as a starter and off the bench, but still highlights that the club lacks a reliable starting attacking midfielder. Matko Miljevic, the heir apparent to the role vacated by Mihailovic, is still recovering from knee surgery after getting hurt in pre-season training.
That injury bug running rampant has quietly become the defining factor of their start to the season. Since the very first game of the year, at least three starting players have been either unavailable or not completely fit. That issue is heaviest in the midfield with Miljevic injured and captain Samuel Piette out six to eight weeks after reaggravating a groin injury against Vancouver.
This is forcing some of Montreal’s youth players to be thrust into high-pressure situations without having enough experience. However, this does not seem to concern Losada, who thinks it’s part of the motions of a season, “other teams have injuries too.”