CF Montreal looks to regain home form with playoff spot up for grabs

MONTREAL — Currently mired in a six-game winless streak, CF Montreal will need to revert to its dominant home form Wednesday against the Houston Dynamo to improve its playoff chances.

Montreal (11-16-4) was in unbeatable form at home earlier this season. The club posted eight straight shutouts, including six in Major League Soccer competition, from April 18 to June 21.

In its last seven MLS home games, however, Montreal has managed to win just twice, due in large part to a lack of late-game finishing.

With two of its final three contests home games against Western Conference opposition this week, an improvement at Stade Saputo could be all Montreal needs to secure a post-season spot. The club enters the match holding the ninth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

“All that matters is a positive result, this is a match that we need to win, we need to play well, and we want to give the fans that have been with us all season a good show,” said head coach Hernan Losada. “We have a great opportunity to make the playoffs over the next two games in front of our own fans and this is very exciting.”

Houston (12-11-8) is one of the least successful teams away from home this season. They have only taken 10 points out of a possible 45 in their 15 road games and have conceded 25 goals in the process.

Another cause for cautious Montreal optimism is the gradual return of Romell Quioto, who was out for four months with a thigh muscle injury and got his first start on Saturday against Orlando City SC. Despite being limited to 10 games this season, the Honduran striker is tied for third on the team in MLS goals scored this year with three.

“We recognize that we’re a team that needs to perform better than what we’re currently doing,” said Quioto, who will be playing against his former team in the Dynamo. “If I can contribute in my own way by accumulating minutes and scoring goals, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

Despite recent struggles both in scoring and securing results, Montreal’s defence at home has remained consistently strong. While the club has the worst away defence in MLS, Stade Saputo has become a veritable fortress where it registered nine clean sheets in 15 games.

While the loss of Gabriele Corbo — arguably Montreal’s best defender this season — to suspension complicates the challenge of countering the Dynamo’s offence, there is still a solid foundation that has been build over the course of the season. Apart from a 4-2 shootout against Columbus, Montreal has conceded more than one goal just once this year.

“It’s not just one player. I wish I could tell you why (Montreal defends better at home), there’s just a level of confidence it brings to the team,” said defender George Campbell. “I think we’re always prepared at home.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.

Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press