CF Montréal seeks to maintain a positive attitude after a long period away from home

After five of six weeks of training away from home, the team’s first six games of the season will also be played on the road.

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CF Montréal is used to taking long road trips early in the season. However, the start of the 2024 campaign is the most skewed since the team’s arrival in Major League Soccer.

The club opens the season with six consecutive games, and eight of its first 10, played away from home.

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With five of the club’s six weeks of training camp taking place outside of Montreal before the season began, the extended time on the road presents a mental challenge for its players.

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“The boys have already been away from home a lot. From one plane to another, from one hotel to another, then (we asked ourselves) how we can maintain a jovial atmosphere,” coach Laurent Courtois said. “We try to find a balance between (work and) letting the guys take a breather and letting them live.”

After picking up a point in their season opener against Eastern Conference rival Orlando City SC, Montreal will now make the trip to face an unknown FC Dallas team on March 2. This will be the first time Montreal faces Dallas in almost four years, when the club was still known as Impact.

After a busy offseason that brought in some top talent, Dallas is looking to be a top contender in the Western Conference. One of the main additions is midfielder Asier Illarramendi, who won a Champions League with Real Madrid.

The former Spanish international arrived last year before the mid-season deadline and has already made a significant impact in his first full season with Dallas, scoring a spectacular opening day goal in a 2-1 win over San Jose. .

“It’s going to be a really big task, they have very good players (in the midfield), but also up top and they have a lot of quality all over the field,” said Montreal captain Samuel Piette. “It’s not just about man-marking, we have to be solid and compact as a unit, which is something we did very well against Orlando.”

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Whether it’s stifling the opposition’s build-up play or controlling the tempo in Courtois’ new attacking and dominant possession philosophy, Montreal’s midfield will be counted on heavily against Dallas.

With several newcomers in both defense and attack, there is only one new face among the midfielders: Dominic Iankov. In addition to the Bulgarian international, many key members of the midfield have been together for years.

“The coach told us that we had to maintain a constant level and continue to improve with each game,” said midfielder Mathieu Choinière, who won the club’s Most Valuable Player award in 2023. “After that, we know how to play our game.” . and what it takes, it’s up to us to get the ball to the right players.”

Choinière, a youth academy graduate, enjoyed a breakout season and also earned an MLS All-Star nod. In addition to Choinière and Piette, several local midfielders are establishing themselves as important members of the organization.

Nathan Saliba, Rida Zouhir and 17-year-old academy player Alessandro Biello, who has been selected for Canada’s under-20 team, show what the future of Montreal’s midfield could look like.

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