Sports Retooled CF Montréal kicks off MLS season with plenty of new faces
CF Montréal acquires goalkeeper Sebastion Breza
While Club de Foot Montréal doesn’t appear to be in great need of goalkeeping help as it prepares for the start of its Major League Soccer season, the club nonetheless has added one more player into that mix. CF Montréal on Tuesday announced the acquisition of ‘keeper Sebastien Breza for the season. The 23-year-old joins the club on loan from Italian side Bologna FC 1909. CFM already has returning veterans Clément Diop and James Pantemis as its last line of defence. Diop played the majority of games last season, replaced briefly by Pantemis, a Kirkland native who made three MLS appearances last season when Diop returned briefly to France for family reasons.
A new name, jersey, logo, manager and season. Club de Foot Montréal hopes for a fresh start as it embarks on its 2021 Major League Soccer campaign.
“We want to start on the right foot with that new identity,” midfieldersaid Friday, during a video conference from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I think you’re going to see a team that’s hungry and excited to show the world what we have inside us.”
CF Montréal, which underwent a rebranding during the winter, launches its 34-game regular schedule on Saturday (2 p.m., TSN1, TSN4, TVA Sports, TSN Radio 690, 91.9 FM) against Toronto FC.
MLS season starts with hopes of returning to normalcy
Major League Soccer embarks on the 2021 season with a new labour agreement in hand, the return of two big stars, a new team in Austin, Texas, and lessons learned from 2020. There still won't be full crowds in most places but there are reasons to be optimistic for the league's 26th season as more Americans get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The league was two games into the season last March when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports in the United States. Play resumed in the summer with the MLS is Back tournament in a bubble in Florida before an abbreviated season held in local markets. The Columbus Crew emerged as the MLS Cup champions.
About the only thing that hasn’t changed is the fact these nomads won’t be playing home games at Saputo Stadium for the foreseeable future because ofand the pandemic-related travel restrictions. Inter Miami CF Stadium becomes the team’s base after it completed 2020 playing “home” games in Harrison, N.J.
“This is not new for them but, I have to be honest, it’s going to be difficult,” said manager Wilfried Nancy, who replaces Thierry Henry —following only one season to remain in Europe for family reasons.
“As a human being, the fact we won’t be in Montreal, it’s not the same for the players,” added Nancy, 43, who joined the first team as an assistant coach in 2016 following time with the organization’s academy.
CF Montréal opens season firing on all cylinders in 4-2 win over Toronto FC
A team that was offensively challenged at times last season opened its Major League Soccer season with an explosive and inspiring attack. Club de Foot Montréal launched its 2021 campaign Saturday afternoon with an impressive 4-2 victory over Toronto FC at DRV PNK Stadium, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home of Inter Miami CF that will serve as the club’s pandemic base indefinitely because of COVID-19. Mason Toye opened the scoring in the third minute for CF Montréal, which also received goals from Romell Quioto in the 24th, Victor Wanyama (54th) and Djordje Mihailovic (71st).
CF Montréal finished ninth in the Eastern Conference last season (8-13-2) but qualified for the expanded playoff pool. However, things are expected to return to normal now, meaning only seven clubs will qualify — and the oddsmakers don’t like the side’s chances. SportsBetting.com listed CF Montréal as 66-1 underdogs to capture the MLS Cup. Another, sportsbettingdime.com, ranks CFM 13th among 14 teams in the conference.
“I don’t believe in guesswork,” Nancy said. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. I know what we want to do, and we’ll see how it goes by the end of the year.”
Nancy’s immediate objective will be to tighten a defensive unit that allowed 43 goals in 23 games, had difficulties against set pieces and repeatedly made glaring errors. “We’re going to have a more dynamic defence,” he vowed.
Among the 10 new players, Nancy hopes Slovenian centre-back Kiki Struna, acquired in a trade with Houston, will help the back line along with the addition of Canadian Kamal Miller, who was selected by Austin FC in the expansion draft before being traded to Montreal.
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Although only 23, Miller has been identified as one of three players who will wear the captain’s armband this season, along with Piette and returning midfielder Victor Wanyama.
While CFM doesn’t have a traditional offensive star, Romell Quioto produced eight goals in 19 games — his best MLS season. He’ll be supported by 6-foot-5 newcomer, along with attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, who was added in a December trade from Chicago for US$1 million in allocation money.
Nancy wants a team that’s aggressive and dynamic, one that plays forward and focuses on ball possession.
“They’re open about the concepts we want to put in place,” Nancy said. “We have the quality to apply these concepts. I’m eager to start this season. It’s going to be new for the players and a good challenge.”
TFC (13-5-5) was second in the conference — but that was under manager Greg Vanney, who was replaced by Chris Armas, the former coach of the New York Red Bulls.
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