CF Montreal have booked their first trip to the post-season since 2016 with a dramatic 2-2 draw against the Columbus Crew on Friday night.
Victor Wanyama scored in the 89th minute and Zachary Brault-Guillard scored in stoppage time to even the score and allow Montreal (16-9-5) to pick up one point.
Jonathan Mensah and Lucas Zelarayán scored for Columbus (9-6-14).
Columbus caught Montreal off guard early in the game, getting on the front foot immediately. With star signing Cucho Hernandez leading the line, the Crew forced three excellent stops from James Pantemis in the opening 15 minutes.
“The team always leave it all out on the field and I was happy to pay that back on my end,” said Pantemis. “The team gave me props but it’s just my job. Stopping shots is good but you need to score too, and we did that.”
At approximately the 20-minute mark, Romell Quioto and Mason Toye swapped spots, and the momentum of the game shifted.
Mathieu Choinière was played through by a great ball and centred it to Toye, but he was unable to convert.
Montreal continued to press and created another golden scoring opportunity as time wound down in the first half. Mihailovic found himself alone in the box with a point-blank shot, only to be frustrated as he saw it blocked.
In the second half, the Crew continued to play in a very low defensive block — something many teams visiting Stade Saputo have done with great success.
That success came Columbus’ way in the 66th minute from a set piece that saw Mensah rise up and place a header into the right corner of the net.
Things went from bad to worse for Montreal as it took less than a minute for Zelarayán to double the visitors’ lead, putting a well-placed volley after an initial shot was blocked.
Montreal was provided some help to make a comeback with 15 minutes remaining when a rash challenge from Luis Diaz saw him get sent off.
“We’ve done comebacks like this before throughout the season, but it was just different because it was at home,” said head coach Wilfried Nancy. “We’ve been in this situation and the team knew what to do, so executing it was all that was left to do.”
Montreal had struggled when needing a goal at home, capitulating to defences that sit deep and welcome waves of attack. That was not the case this time around, as Nancy played only two defenders, forcing more players upfield and pressing as high as possible.
That pressure yielded a goal as a shot from Matko Miljevic deflected off Wanyama, pulling one back for the hosts.
With only three minutes of stoppage time remaining, Brault-Guillard’s scored from outside of the box, surprising the Columbus goalkeeper to tie the score and send Stade Saputo into a frenzy.
“We put the ball in the box a lot more and we pressed higher up. We were moving a lot and switching positions and forced a lot of mistakes from them,” said Brault-Guillard. “I think we could’ve won this game if we had a little more time but we’re happy with the result we got.”
Both teams are back in action on Sept. 13 as Montreal hosts the Chicago Fire, while Columbus heads to DRV PRK Stadium to face off against Inter Miami.