(Montreal) CF Montreal players will have a golden opportunity to end their season on a high note, two weeks after suffering a heartbreaking loss depriving them of a MLS playoff appearance.
This Sunday, the Montreal squad will return to Saputo Stadium to face Toronto FC in the final of the Canadian Championship. With a victory, CF Montreal will qualify for the Concacaf Champions League tournament.
Even if it will be the game presented the latest in the history of the Saputo stadium, midfielder Mathieu Choinière assured that the motivation of CF Montreal was in no way blunted.
“It will be a very important week. I think we want to win something this year – and we will get that chance on Sunday to win a trophy – which would allow us to leave with peace of mind for the holidays. So the intensity in training is really high, because we want to be ready for the game, ”said the 22-year-old Quebecer by videoconference on Tuesday afternoon.
For his part, attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic did not hide the fact that the pill had been difficult to swallow following the 2-0 loss against Orlando City on the lawn of the Saputo stadium on November 7. However, he believes that time has done its work and that he and his teammates are ready for their next challenge.
“After such games, it often takes 72 hours to get over it – the first day is always the worst – but the pill was easier to swallow knowing that we still had a league game to play,” first mentioned Mihailovic.
“We played well throughout the season, and we had placed ourselves in a favorable position to make the MLS playoffs, but unfortunate events torpedoed our efforts. We will also have to improve them in anticipation of the next season, but in the meantime we must turn the page and concentrate on Sunday, ”he added.
To qualify for the final, CF Montreal first beat the HFX Wanderers 3-1 on September 22. Then, on October 27, after being limited to a 0-0 score after the regulatory 90 minutes, the Montreal side defeated Forge FC 8-7 in 11 rounds of shootouts. Goalkeeper Sebastian Breza scored the decisive goal.
This is the third time in the past five years that CF Montreal and Toronto FC have crossed swords in the final. The last meeting between these two great rivals in such circumstances dates back to September 2019, when the Montreal Impact had earned the 10e Voyageurs Cup in its history after winning 3-1 in the shootout.
At the time, the two clubs had played a series of two home and away matches. The Impact won the first leg 1-0 at Saputo Stadium on September 18. Exactly a week later, Toronto FC won the second leg by the same score at BMO Field, forcing a shootout.
In 2020, the final was to pit Toronto FC against Forge FC, a Hamilton team playing in the Canadian Premier League. This meeting was suspended due to COVID-19.
The 2021 final will serve as a sort of consolation prize for the two teams, who were unable to carve out a berth in the MLS playoffs.
“It’s a very ironic game, because we started our season in Miami in front of empty stands on the other side of the continent. So, finishing our season at home, in front of our fans, and with a trophy at stake, is something very rare. Besides, I would never have believed at the start of the season that it would end like this. But we are very grateful to get this opportunity, ”admitted Mihailovic, a 23-year-old American.
In the regular season in MLS, CF Montreal and Toronto FC played three games. CF Montreal won the first two 4-2, on April 17 in Fort Lauderdale, and 3-1 on August 27 at Saputo Stadium. On October 23 at BMO Field, Toronto FC snatched a 1-1 draw with a goal from Jozy Altidore in the 95e minute of play.
The Montreal team has already participated in the quarter-finals of the Concacaf Champions League in 2008-09 and the final of the 2014-15 edition – where the Montrealers lost 5-3 in cumulative goals in front of the Club America.