MONTREAL — Bouncing back after a loss to your closest rival in the semifinals of a tournament is no small feat. It's even harder when your next game is only three days later, but that's exactly the situation CF Montreal found themselves in on Saturday.
Montreal managed to pull it off, getting back into the Major League Soccer win column after beating Charlotte FC 2-1 at Saputo Stadium and claiming second place in the Eastern Conference in the process.
Romell Quioto and Mathieu Choiniere scored for Montreal (8-6-2), while Guzman Corujo was Charlotte's (6-9-2) lone goal scorer.
"The whole team was more proactive and played on the front foot and that's why they deserved to get this win,'' said head coach Wilfried Nancy. "This is the way we play, and this is the way I want to see my team. I don't like it at all when we are passive, so we need to provoke things.''
Montreal has made a habit of starting games at home incredibly strong and today was no different, dominating the ball and forcing Charlotte back constantly.
It took Montreal only seven minutes to break the deadlock. Their first shot from Quioto's found the bottom right corner, giving the hosts the lead.
"I always try and bring this quality to the team, a goal and an assist made the difference but the most important thing is the three points,'' said Quioto, who has shouldered more of the offensive responsibility with MVP candidate Djordje Mihailovic sidelined for another month.
"There are some big shoes to fill with Djordje missing, but that's something that's done as a team. We're a deep squad and that's how we're going to find success,'' Quioto added.
It only took Charlotte three minutes to respond when a defensive mishap led to a simple tap in from a few feet out for Corujo.
The other side of that habit has been that — following a strong start — Montreal would take its foot off the gas and invite opposing pressure.
It was no different for this game as Charlotte appeared more than happy to run out the clock on the first half.
After the restart, Montreal seemed to find its tempo once again. Two minutes into the half, Quioto found Choiniere — a halftime substitution — in space, who then launched a perfect shot into the opposite-side corner.
"It was a great moment. I've seen (Nacho Piatti) do it to me so many time in training so that was my little tribute to him,'' joked Choiniere. "I was ready to play 120 minutes after that, scoring right after you come on really gets you going.''
As Charlotte continued to push for an equalizer, their best opportunity came with seven minutes left. Karol Swiderski had two point-blank shots — one saved by Sebastian Breza and the other was launched over the bar.
Three points were not the only cause for celebration for Montreal fans as they also saw the return of Mason Toye who had missed the last 10 months with a series of injuries. He almost sent the crowd into raptures, coming inches away from heading home a goal less than a minute after his entrance.
"It was so great to see him out there. He worked so hard to get back to this level, if only he had gotten that goal, too,'' said Nancy. "It's all about him building confidence and slowly getting back into his top form.''
Both teams have mid-week games coming up as Montreal travels to Seattle on June 29 to face the Sounders. Charlotte will return home to Bank of America Stadium and host Austin FC on June 30.