MONTREAL — After a heartbreaking tie in Toronto on Saturday, CF Montréal's players are no doubt concerned about their team's poor position in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.
But on Wednesday evening, they'll have to focus on something else when they face Forge FC in a Canadian Championship semifinal. This time, Montreal's won’t have a second chance to rebound from a disappointment.
The match in Hamilton against Forge, a Canadian Premier League team comes a little more than a month after a 3-1 quarterfinal victory against the HFX Wanderers in Halifax.
Even though he’s American, and may not play due to CF Montréal’s busy schedule, midfielder Djordje Mihailovic knows very well the importance of this game.
“It’s a chance to win a trophy right there. We win that game, we’re in the finals (of the Canadian championship),” said Mihailovic, who didn’t play in the game against Halifax in September.
“There’s two competitions: the MLS and this Canadian Championship and some might say we have to focus more on one versus the other. But at the end of the day, it’s a competition, it’s a championship right there. It’s a chance to win that and play in the Champions League in CONCACAF.
"There’s a lot at stake with this game and we can’t take that lightly at all. It’s a game we have to focus on 100 per cent,” Mihailovic said.
Head coach Wilfried Nancy doesn’t mind the temporary change of direction and thinks Saturday’s draw in Toronto shouldn’t still be on the minds of his players.
“The calendar was made like this. We had the possibility to play the game on another date. We’re good. The match on Saturday is in the past. We saw with the team what we could have done better to have that victory,” Nancy said during a video conference on Monday afternoon.
“Now, it’s a new story against the Forge, who are a good team. Yes, in the CPL, but a good team. I’m going to put out a team that will allow us to try and win this match, because at the end of this there’s a final and we want to go as far as possible in the Canadian Championship,” he said.
Forge FC (13-8-2) is currently third in the CPL with 41 points, three fewer than Cavalry FC and one fewer than Pacific FC, which has played two more games.
The Hamilton team also has the best goal differential (plus-11) along with Pacific FC, which eliminated the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first round and who hope to do the same to Toronto FC next week.
Thanks to the work of goalkeeper Triston Henry, Forge has only allowed 19 goals, the lowest in the league. With eight shutouts, Henry is tied for first place with Quebecer Jonathan Sirois, who is part of the CF Montréal organization and is currently on loan to Winnipeg.
“We’re expecting from them a very strong game, they are on a good run right now beating a lot of teams in CONCACAF and in their domestic league,” said defenceman Kamal Miller.
"So they’re going to be ready, we know they’re in good form and the game is going to mean a lot to them so we have to play very hard, take the game serious and get the win and move on."
Forge has several players who previously played with Montreal's MLS club, notably Max Tissot, Omar Browne and David Choinière, the brother of Mathieu Choinière, who has become one of CF Montréal’s stars this season.
Nancy laughed when asked by a journalist Monday whether he’d cut off all communication between the two brothers, at least until Wednesday, and if he found Mathieu to be more nervous than usual.
“No, I don’t have the sense that he’s more fretful," Nancy said. "Having known them since very early on, these two brothers have always been very competitive with each other.
"They played at home, they had a house, I don’t know if they still have it, in the country and they would have competitive games. And these were no joke. They would tackle each other. They’ve always been like this. It’s good, it’s a nice story."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2021.
Michel Lamarche, The Canadian Press