Surging CF Montreal heads to Charlotte with top spot in the East in sight

CF Montreal players celebrate a goal by Joaquin Torres (10) against Orlando City during second half MLS soccer action in Montreal, Saturday, May 7, 2022. (Graham Hughes/CP)

CF Montréal coach Wilfried Nancy says he doesn’t pay attention to the Major League Soccer standings, but his team’s rise through the Eastern Conference ranks is sure to have rival clubs on notice.

After managing only a point in its first four games, Montreal has cemented itself as a genuine threat in the East. The club will take an eight-game unbeaten streak in all competitions, including a club-record seven-game run in MLS action, into an away match with Charlotte FC on Saturday.

The record run has moved Montreal into third spot in the conference.

“I don’t check the standings,” Nancy said of Montreal’s rise. “A couple of friends of mine send me (the standings) but I don’t pay attention to that.”

Still, Montreal (5-3-2) could be in top spot in the East by week’s end. The club enters Saturday a point behind the New York Red Bulls and two back of the conference-leading Philadelphia Union.

The Red Bulls and Union square off Saturday night in New York, so a draw in that match coupled with a Montreal win would draw move the Canadian club past New York and into a tie with the Union. Montreal would get top spot by having more wins.

“It was hard being on the road for the first six out of eight (games). We were at home and now we’re starting to get the hang of things and our confidence is high,” said defender Joel Waterman. “We’re being brave and we’re being confident, and the locker room is really good right now.”

Charlotte is 4-6-1 so far in tis inaugural season and sits in eighth place in the East, just outside of a playoff spot. But the club has proven that Bank of America Stadium is a fortress, winning four consecutive games and only conceding a single goal.

“There’s a lot of nuance in their game and their manager has a very particular and cerebral approach,” Nancy said. “We’re in great form and we’re loving that right now … but we have to stay focused on us.

“There are no easy games in MLS and it’ll be our first time on the road in a bit, so it’s an interesting matchup.”

Montreal’s schedule is at arguably the toughest point since the beginning of the season, with the club’s depth being tested as it gets ready for five games (three at home) in the next two weeks.

“It’s going to be a physically and tactically demanding challenge, making sure that everyone is physically ready and that we have to prepare for big games very quickly.” said captain Samuel Piette. “We’re in great form and everything is going well but we still have a degree of humility within the team since we know how quickly things can turn.”

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