CF Montreal off to Miami with goal of finishing first in MLS East

CF Montreal players celebrate a goal by Zachary Brault-Guillard against the Columbus Crew during second half MLS soccer action in Montreal, Friday, September 9, 2022. (Graham Hughes/CP)

MONTREAL — After missing the Major League Soccer playoffs in heartbreaking fashion last season, CF Montreal will have no such stress this year after booking their trip to the post-season a month ago.

They will, however, have the opportunity to secure first place in the Eastern Conference and nab a crucial first-round bye as they take on Inter Miami on the road on Sunday afternoon.

That being said, skipping the first round has often been a poison apple for teams at the top of the East. Since 2016, only two teams that benefited from that top ranking managed to move on to the Conference Final.

"There have been teams who have struggled with the bye in the past, but either way it goes I think we'll be fine and we'll properly prepare regardless,'' said Kamal Miller. "It's really nice to be in this position and it says a lot about the work we did throughout the whole season.''

A win alone will not secure Montreal's (19-9-5) position at the top of the East as they will also need Philadelphia Union to drop points at home to Toronto FC. Philadelphia enters weekend action with 64 points, two up on Montreal.

After securing their playoff spot earlier this week, Miami (14-13-6) now has the opportunity to secure home-field advantage for the first round after an excellent run of form. They have won four straight, scoring 10 goals in the process on the back of a rejuvenated Gonzalo Higuain who notched six during that run.

Miami enters weekend action in fifth spot with 48 points, two behind the New York Red Bulls and two ahead of Cincinnati.

"He's an exemplary personality both on and off the field … he's one hell of a competitor and what he's done this season, I take my hat off to him,'' said Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy of Higuain, who announced he would be retiring at the end of the season.

"They're not easy to play against and they (Miami) are full of confidence at home so expect a good game and a great spectacle.''

The matchup will be a battle between the best home team and the best road team in MLS, with Miami winning 10 of their last 13 as hosts. On the other hand, Montreal is one win away from breaking the league record for most away wins in a single season, picking up an astounding 32 points in the process.

Kickoff at DRV PNK Parl is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

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