Defense has been at the heart of CF Montreal’s recent successes, to the point where the Montreal team rank second in MLS for the number of goals allowed, 11, tied with the Columbus Crew. However, the back line will look different on Saturday night and possibly in subsequent games.
We already knew that Canadian defender Kamal Miller would not be in the game against FC Cincinnati, since he participates in the Concacaf Gold Cup tournament.
Incidentally, this is also the case of midfielder Samuel Piette and striker Romell Quioto, for Honduras.
Their absence could extend until August 1, when the tournament ends. Until then, the Montreal team will play three more games, all away, against New York City FC (July 21), New England (July 25) and Inter Miami CF (July 31).
But now Kiki Struna, who started the last 11 meetings of the club, will also be inactive on Saturday, for reasons that head coach Wilfried Nancy did not want to specify.
Asked twice rather than once about the Slovenian central defender during his weekly pre-match video conference on Thursday, Nancy limited herself to saying that he was unavailable.
What is known is that Struna has not been seen with his teammates during the club’s training sessions for the past few days. Could he be available when the team play in New York? We don’t know.
The absences of Struna and Miller could prompt Nancy to change her defensive scheme and call on four defenders, rather than using three center-backs and two full-backs as we’ve seen more often than not this season.
Asked about it, Nancy admitted that both scenarios were possible, while adding that she had one last training session on Friday to make a final decision.
Also, these absences could lead to the return to the field of Joel Waterman.
The 25-year-old Canadian defenseman has only appeared in four games in 2021, including three as a starter. His last start was on May 29, when he spent 90 minutes in the field in a 1-0 win by CF Montreal against the Chicago Fire.
Since then, he has only donned the uniform once, on July 7, and only played for one minute.
« I was out of the game for a couple of weeks with a minor injury, but I’m back and ready to play, » he said on video conference Thursday.
“With the absentees, it will be a challenge for us, but I know we have the players who can do the job,” he also mentioned.
How many absent?
It’s not just CF Montreal that will be deprived of some important players. This will also be the case for FC Cincinnati. The question is who, and exactly how much, because of the restrictions linked to the pandemic.
One thing is certain: Allan Cruz, who scored two of FC Cincinnati’s five goals against the Montreal team – both in 2019 – will be absent, as will Ronald Matarrita.
Both players represent Costa Rica at the Gold Cup.
Separately, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday, four of the team’s players, Brenner Souza da Silva of Brazil, Alvaro Barreal of Argentina, Gustavo Vallecilla of Ecuador and Isaac Atanga of Ghana, missed the team’s training session on Monday and flew to New York City for special visas.
According to the daily, which reported information from the team, these players have received the visas in question.
Separately, in the same article, head coach Jaap Stam gave the impression of being dissatisfied with the league’s decision on Wednesday to host the game in Montreal.
« I have my opinion – very strong – but it is not to be shared, » he said at his weekly press conference on Thursday.
“Sometimes you have to face the situation as it is. Is it always fair about the way things are done, about the decision that is made and also the timeline? Yes, it’s questionable, ”Stam also mentioned.