CF Montreal looks to take momentum into break as Minnesota visits Stade Saputo

CF Montreal's Sean Rea, top, celebrates with teammates after scoring against Vaughan SC during first half preliminary round Canadian Championship soccer action in Montreal, Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (Graham Hughes/CP)

MONTREAL — CF Montreal hopes to carry momentum into a two-week break and cap off a run of 11 games in just 36 days with a win against visiting Minnesota United on Saturday.

Montreal (6-9-1) started the stretch stuck in the basement of Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, but had won their three previous games in all competitions. The team then extended that streak to six while booking a spot in the Canadian Championship final and finding its way back into the East’s playoff picture.

“The start was a little catastrophic, but what’s important is that we’ve somewhat recovered from it and doing better now,” said defender Rudy Camacho. “There’s a bit of fatigue, but we’ve got one game left and we want to give the home fans a good show and get three points.”

At the beginning of the season, Minnesota (5-6-5) had earned a reputation as road warriors, scoring three consecutive wins away from home. Since then, the club has taken points away from just one of their last eight road games in all competitions.

The return of star Emanuel Reynoso could give the Loons a much-needed boost. After establishing himself as an elite attacking midfielder in MLS last season and picking up 12 goals and six assists, off-season drama saw the Argentine fail to report to camp before the start of the season.

Minnesota United midfielder Emanuel Reynoso (10) tries to get a shot off ahead of Vancouver Whitecaps defender Bruno Gaspar (6) during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in St. Paul, Minn. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

That led to a lengthy suspension without pay from the league which lasted until last week, when he came off the bench against Toronto FC.

“They are a team with a lot of individual quality, especially now that Reynoso is back. He’s a gamechanger,” said Montreal head coach Hernan Losada. “They also don’t have the mental fatigue that we will have. They’ve had a whole week to prepare this game so it’s up to us to be ready.”

The mental fatigue may have been exacerbated by a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the final of the Canadian Championship on Wednesday. After going down early in the second half through two avoidable mistakes, Montreal nearly mounted a comeback in the final 10 minutes, only to be denied by Whitecaps keeper Yohei Takaoka twice in stoppage time.

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Losada had not shied away from the importance of the Canadian Championship, as it was not only an excellent opportunity to secure the club’s first piece of silverware since 2021, but their most direct route to a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.

“To be honest it won’t be easy, it was a long trip with a lot of emotions, so the focus is on recovery and having fresh legs,” said Losada. “But we have to stick together and stay positive, that’s the only way we’ll get a result.” 

After this weekend’s games, MLS will recognize the worldwide international break for two weeks, allowing many at the club to finally get some rest. This is also an opportunity for injured players like Samuel Piette and Romell Quioto to make headway in their recovery without missing any game time. The two Montreal stars have picked up significant injuries to the adductor and hamstring muscle respectively and have played little this season.  

There are also two Montreal players who will be representing their national teams during the break. Aaron Herrera was called up to the Guatemalan National Team while Robert Thorkelsson will return to the Icelandic Under-21 team.

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