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Montreal returns focus to MLS ahead of opening-day rematch with Miami

With a spot in the Canadian Championship final booked, CF Montreal will now turn its attention back to Major League Soccer and an opening-day rematch of when it hosts Inter Miami on Saturday. CF Montreal's Matko Miljevic (8) and Forge FC's Rezart Rama (24) collide during first half Canadian Championship semifinal soccer action in Montreal on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Allen McInnis

MONTREAL — With a spot in the Canadian Championship final booked, CF Montreal will now turn its attention back to Major League Soccer and an opening-day rematch of when it hosts Inter Miami on Saturday.

Montreal and Miami have had similar roller-coaster seasons leading to identical records of 5-8-0. 

After an excellent start to the campaign, Miami has struggled to find its footing and has had difficulty stringing together wins. A new-look attack filled with talent was brought in after the retirement of star striker Gonzalo Higuain, but the players haven’t clicked on a consistent basis.

“They have a lot of individual quality and two of the best attackers in the league in (Leonardo) Campana and Josef Martinez,” said Montreal head coach Hernan Losada. “Both teams need points to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot, so I expect you’ll see a pretty open game.”

Very similar to Montreal, Miami was riding a two-game losing streak and turned to its domestic championship to generate some momentum. While Montreal dispatched Forge FC in a Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday evening, Miami earned a hard-fought 2-1 win against Nashville SC in the round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup.

Aside from form, the two clubs have also been linked through the trade market this season. In April, Montreal sent central defender Kamal Miller to Miami in exchange for midfielder Bryce Duke and winger Ariel Lassiter.

“I’ll try and talk to some of the guys (in Miami) and see if I can get any information,” Duke said jokingly. “I was there for a year so I kind of know how to play and certain tendencies. It’s definitely something I’ll have to talk to the guys about and use to our advantage.”

This will also be Miller’s first time back in Montreal after two-and-a-half years with the squad, and Losada expects that the All-Star and Canadian International will receive a warm welcome from the Stade Saputo faithful. 

“We’ve had a lot of really good moments together and it will be really nice to see him again on Saturday,” said Miller’s former defensive partner Rudy Camacho. “Hopefully he doesn’t have too good of a game.”

While Montreal looks to capitalize on their most recent win, a familiar dark cloud has returned in the shape of injuries. After leaving the game against Toronto at halftime, it has been confirmed that star striker Romell Quioto has a torn hamstring and will be out indefinitely.

The Honduran international is no stranger to lower-body injuries, suffering several throughout his career. He will be out for an extended period for the second time this season after missing five games in April with a thigh injury.

With six games played in the last 18 days and another five in 12 days on tap, fatigue may be taking its toll on a Montreal squad that has not seen much rotation.

“Injuries at this moment are the last thing we want, but results and points are needed,” said Losada. “With Romell, it’s not good news at all. I won’t give an exact timeline, but he will definitely be out for longer than last time.”

After sustaining another long-term injury to their talisman, Montreal’s scoring up front has become even thinner. Despite missing half the season, Quioto is still the club’s leading scorer this year (three goals in seven MLS games) with a lot of attackers unable to consistently assert themselves as scoring threats.

“We have a lot of players that can play in that attacker role, but the number 10s (attacking midfielders) will also have some responsibility,” Losada said. “Attacking midfielders are not just for passing, they’re there to be decisive and take risks.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2023.

Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press

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