Wilfried Nancy's message to Romell Quioto this season was simple -- relax and let go of the pressure.
Nancy said his striker, who scored eight goals in 19 games to earn club MVP honours for CF Montreal last season, plays under hefty expectations, mostly self-imposed.
"I had a good discussion with him," Nancy said ahead of Montreal's game Saturday at Nashville. "Last year, he put too much pressure on himself. This year the directive was to give him the confidence to be able to show his quality, because he has good quality.
"He's very demanding about what he wants to do, and sometimes the expectations are too high. And so the objective for him was to settle down everything, and to control what you can control on the pitch."
Montreal plays at Nashville on Saturday on the heels of a 4-2 thumping of Toronto FC in season opener for both teams last weekend.
Quioto had his team's second goal to help Montreal get a win in Nancy's debut, outsprinting Toronto defender Luke Singh on the wing to score from a tough angle.
Montreal used a balanced attack and four different goalscorers in the win in what was perhaps an indication that Quioto won't need to shoulder the majority of the offensive load this year.
"The team always has to depend on every single player. They need to work hard and together in order to have success is the only way," the Honduran forward said through an interpreter.
"Of course he loves helping out there, scoring goals and he works every day towards that objective to keep on doing it," the interpreter said. "The goal is to keep working hard that all together to be able to score as many goals as possible as a group."
Montreal hasn't gone 2-0 to start a season in five years, but faces one of the best defensive teams in the league last season in Nashville.
Erik Hurtado was a 60th minute substitute for Montreal in last week's victory. Montreal signed Hurtado, who has played over 130 MLS games for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Sporting Kansas City, in February, and the veteran forward said he's impressed with Montreal's depth this season.
"It's definitely healthy to have competition for (roster) places," he said.
COVID-19 restrictions have Canadian teams based in the U.S. to start this season. Montreal and are Toronto playing out of Florida (Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, respectively), while Vancouver is calling Sandy, Utah, its home for the season.
Hurtado said the depth will help the team navigate a busy season playing in soaring temperatures.
"We are going to have a lot of games coming up in a short amount of time so we're going to need everybody," he said. "Even if a team goes out there and wins 4-0, they can't play four games in a week-and-a-half, that's when I think competition (for spots) is going to be good, because the guys that aren't playing . . . are going to come in and play and they're going to be like 'I've got something to prove, I can contribute to this team too.'
"It's really good that we have a lot of competition for places."
Saturday's game will feature an unfamiliar sight -- fans. Nashville will have supporters in the stands at Nissan Stadium on Saturday, the one regulation being they must be masked unless eating or drinking.
Hurtado said that won't impact the game.
"I prepare for every game on the same the same way," he said. "If there's fans, there's no fans, we're going out there and we're playing the game, we're not going out and looking at the fans, and seeing them in the crowd. You know, we got to focus on our job, and our job is to win the game."
Nashville is looking for its first win of the season after a 2-2 draw with Cincinnati.
CF MONTREAL (1-0-0) at NASHVILLE (0-0-1)
Saturday, Nashville's Nissan Stadium
LAST SEASON: A Montreal victory would be the team's first against Nashville, which won 1-0 in their only meeting in 2020.
EARLY STREAKS: Montreal last went 2-0 to start a season in 2016, beating Vancouver 3-2 and the New York Red Bulls 3-0. That season, Montreal advanced all the way to the conference final where they lost to Canadian rival Toronto FC
INJURY REPORT: Montreal's Lassi Lappalainen could be close to a return. Nancy said the the midfielder has been cleared to return to practice but is not yet fit to play. . . Luis Binks and Ballou Tabla are out with injuries.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2021.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press