The time has almost come. Orlando City will try to advance past the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs for the second time in its existence on Sunday. Standing in the Lions’ way is the somewhat awkwardly named Club de Foot Montreal. In order to advance, OCSC will need to repeat last year’s Decision Day victory at Stade Saputo with everything on the line.
Ahead of this one, I spoke to Saul Garcia, the managing editor of SBNation’s Mount Royal Soccer. Saul helped give us a good idea of what makes this Montreal team tick, and what to expect on Sunday.
CF Montreal closed the season on a six-game unbeaten run. What was the biggest key in fueling that excellent stretch?
Saul Garcia: Wilfried Nancy has really had this team humming. It’s all been product of his coaching, instilling a detailed and disciplined game plan for the team. The compactness, strong midfield, and cooperative fullbacks with a 3/5 man back has worked wonders. Victor Wanyama has also merited his Designated Player charge and has played like one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. Paired with a resurgent Kei Kamara and Mason Toye, and CFM had a really strong last six games.
What is the best way to attack this Montreal team? Are there any specific areas where Orlando City should focus?
SG: Pressing teams have given CFM trouble, like the Red Bulls and Philly. Pressing higher up the pitch has worked and focusing on being more counter-attacking has as well. CFM have struggled all season with goalkeeping, so direct shots and a wide range of them could trouble the team.
What do you think the ceiling is for this team in the playoffs? Is anything less than making the MLS Cup final a disappointment, or are expectations being tempered?
SG: The ceiling is the Cup, this team has proven it can hang with anyone, and if Djordje Mihailovic and/or Romell Quioto can get to high form, I think they can beat anyone in the league. For fans, the general sentiment has been anything but a conference final appearance would be a failure, which is crazy to say, as the club has spent modestly and really does not have huge names in its side.
Still, with Nancy and a really solid midfield, the sky is the limit for CFM.
Are there any players that will be unavailable due to injury or other circumstances? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
SG: Several role players will be out (Tomas Giraldo, Ahmed Hamdi, Bjorn Johnsen), but Romell Quioto, who was injured in international play, is expected to play, so that is the most important.
Projected lineup would be: James Pantemis; Rudy Camacho, Joel Waterman, Kamal Miller; Lassi Lappalainen, Ismael Kone, Victor Wanyama, Samuel Piette, Alistair Johnston; Djordje Mihailovic: Romell Quioto.
Final score, CFM win 3-2.
Thank you to Saul for the insight into CF Montreal ahead of this one. As always, Vamos Orlando!