Welcome to your playoff match thread for a Sunday night match-up between seventh-seeded Orlando City and Eastern Conference runner-up CF Montreal at Stade Saputo (8 p.m., ESPN, ESPN Deportes). This is the first time the teams have met in the postseason and will be the third meeting of the year after they split the regular-season series.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
The Lions are 7-8-3 against Montreal in the all-time league series and 8-8-3 in all competitions since the club joined MLS. Orlando holds a 4-4-1 road record against Montreal, but one of those “road” wins came during the pandemic while the Canadian side was hosting games at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
Each team won at home in the two-game, regular-season series in 2022, with tonight’s hosts thumping Orlando 4-1 in the most recent meeting in Montreal on May 7. Joel Waterman, Djordje Mihailovic, Joaquin Torres, and Zachary Brault-Guillard did the damage on the scoreboard and Orlando City managed just two shot attempts, with Joao Moutinho’s goal on a set piece helping the Lions avoid a shutout. Orlando City did not have either starting center back for that match, and it showed. The teams previously met on opening day of the 2022 season, when Orlando City captured a 2-0 home win behind second-half goals from Alexandre Pato and Benji Michel.
The teams met in Montreal on Decision Day of 2021, with the Lions earning a 2-0 road victory at Stade Saputo to clinch a playoff spot. Sebas Mendez and Daryl Dike provided the goals. For Mendez, it was his first MLS goal. Last season’s second match-up at Exploria Stadium came on Oct. 20, 2021, with the visitors managing a 1-1 draw. Chris Mueller struck for the Lions just before halftime, but Rudy Camacho answered on a corner kick header shortly after the restart. The first meeting of 2021 took place Sept. 15 in Orlando with the Lions falling 4-2 and finishing the game with just nine men after both Nani and Andres Perea were sent off. Romell Quioto led Montreal with a goal and two assists. Mathieu Choiniere and Quioto put Montreal up 2-0 but despite already being down one man, Robin Jansson and Ruan tied things up. The visitors got two more from Lassi Lappalainen and Sunusi Ibrahim.
The teams met at Red Bull Arena in late 2020 as the then-Montreal Impact played home games in New Jersey due to the pandemic. Orlando City got a Dike goal in the 39th minute to win 1-0 on Nov. 1, 2020. It was the second meeting of the 2020 season, with Orlando also beating Montreal 1-0 in the MLS is Back Tournament knockout rounds on July 25 to advance to the quarterfinals. Tesho Akindele scored the game’s only goal on a Montreal defensive mistake. Orlando had controlled the game but was struggling to finish. Ultimately, the one goal was enough.
Orlando City snapped a six-game winless streak against Montreal (0-5-1) in MLS regular-season play dating back to 2016 when the Lions put the Impact to the sword in a 3-0 drubbing at Stade Saputo on June 1, 2019. Nani (penalty), Akindele, and Will Johnson supplied the offense that day.
The main reason the Impact had such success against Orlando the preceding few years was the play of its defense and of former talisman Ignacio Piatti. The Lions fell 3-1 at Exploria Stadium back on March 16, 2019, and Piatti was a big reason why, scoring his ninth and 10th career goals against Orlando, adding to a strike by Orji Okwonkwo. Dom Dwyer added a cosmetic goal late for Orlando City to spoil the clean sheet.
Montreal did not allow a goal against the Lions in 2018, sweeping the two-game set from Orlando, and the Impact shut out Orlando City in three of the six meetings in that 5-0-1 run. The lone draw in that time frame was a 3-3 shootout in Orlando in 2017, in which the Impact led deep in stoppage time, only to see Jonathan Spector’s well-placed header steal the Lions a point.
The first match in the Impact’s successful run vs. Orlando occurred Oct. 2, 2016, when Montreal stole a 1-0 win in Orlando after bunkering down and hitting on a Dominic Oduro counter-attack goal. The Lions dominated the match, out-shooting the Impact, 22-4, and holding 66.8% of the possession (74.2% in the second half). Oduro’s goal was the only shot on target by Montreal and it eliminated the Lions from playoff contention that year.
Orlando won the first two meetings in 2016 by a combined score of 6-2. The teams split three meetings in 2015, with each going 1-1-1.
The Lions enter this match after an emotional, 2-1 Decision Day comeback win over the Columbus Crew. That was just Orlando’s second win since lifting the U.S. Open Cup trophy on Sept. 7 and snapped a two-game losing streak. The Lions, who started the year with great form on the road, have lost three consecutive away matches heading into this one to finish 5-6-6 on the road in the regular season. That Crew match may not have fixed all of Orlando City’s recent problems but at least the Lions had a full week to rest and prepare for the first time since the international break at the end of September.
Montreal enters the postseason in fantastic form, having won four straight games for the first time since 2018. The Canadian club hasn’t lost in its last six matches (5-0-1). The last time Orlando went to Montreal, tonight’s hosts were on a six-game unbeaten streak then, too, which obviously grew. However, this time around, five of the teams it faced during its six-game streak missed the playoffs. The lone exception was Inter Miami, which Montreal destroyed 3-1 on Decision Day in Fort Lauderdale. Montreal finished the season with a 9-5-3 home record.
At the risk of telling you the odds, American teams have only won in Canada twice in 12 playoff matches north of the border.
Montreal is a good defensive club that can hit on the counter and create from wide areas through Mihailovic and Quioto. Honduran international Quioto suffered a knock in the last window while with his national team and is listed as out for tonight, but the team has plenty of firepower without him and his 15 goals and six assists. Mihailovic and Lion killer Kei Kamara each have nine goals this season to go along with six and seven assists, respectively. Lappalainen and Torres are among the team’s co-leaders in assists with seven apiece, as Montreal is capable of spreading the offense around.
“We are in October already and looking to have a good [match] at this time after the achievement of qualifying with this group,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said in his pre-match press conference. “I think it is even more important to think about advancing and that is where we are now. The group is very optimistic and very confident going to Montréal and fighting for our ticket to the next round.”
The Lions will be without Alexandre Pato (knee), Robin Jansson (foot), and Joey DeZart (knee), while Montreal’s availability report lists Tomas Giraldo (foot), Ahmed Hamdi (leg), and Quioto (leg) as out.
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides an update on what’s been going on in Montreal, courtesy of SBNation’s Mount Royal Soccer Managing Editor Saul Garcia.
- This week’s PawedCast features our key match-ups and score predictions.
- Our Josh Munsey went inside the numbers of CF Montreal in his latest scouting report.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Junior Urso.
Attacking Midfielders: Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres.
Forward: Ercan Kara.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Michael Halliday, Kyle Smith, Wilder Cartagena, Andres Perea, Jake Mulraney, Benji Michel, Nicholas Gioacchini, Tesho Akindele.
CF Montreal (3-5-2)
Goalkeeper: James Pantemis.
Defenders: Kamal Miller, Rudy Camacho, Joel Waterman.
Midfielders: Lassi Lappalainen, Ismail Kone, Victor Wanyama, Samuel Piette, Alistair Johnston.
Forwards: Djordje Mihailovic, Kei Kamara.
Bench: Sebastian Breza, Zachary Brault-Guillard, Gabriele Corbo, Robert Thorkelsson, Mathieu Choiniere, Joaquin Torres, Matko Miljevic, Mason Toye, Romell Quioto.
Ref: Ismail Elfath.
AR1: Corey Parker.
AR2: Cameron Blanchard.
4th: Lukasz Szpala.
VAR: Timothy Ford.
AVAR: Joshua Patlak.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m. ET.
Venue: Stade Saputo — Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on the ESPN app and ESPN.com.
Enjoy the match. Go City!