CF Montréal put together a dream start at the Nissan Stadium on Saturday, flying out of the gates with a two-goal lead against Nashville SC, but were unable to hold the lead. The Canadian side struggled defensively last season and has already conceded four goals in two games under Wilfried Nancy, including the two goals it gave up in a 2-2 draw in Nashville.
Nancy will be happy to have picked up four points out of a possible six, but having squandered a two-goal lead on Saturday, it didn’t feel like a moment for Montreal to be celebrating too much.
“It is a point won, but we are not celebrating in the locker room The feeling is that we lost two points,” Samuel Piette said. “It is a good thing that we are not satisfied with a draw. Compared to last year, we struggled to accumulate points in consecutive games. ”
CF Montréal kicked off the season in good form, thumping Toronto FC 4-2 in their opener. Montreal had its hands full on Saturday against last year’s Eastern Conference semifinalists and came out swinging.
“We will take it – it might prove to be the point that brings us into the playoffs,” Piette said. “In this league, it’s been said you win your home games and avoid defeat away. Mission accomplished in that sense.”
Nancy’s appointment has since breathed new life into Mason Toye, with the former Minnesota United man entering the season in red-hot form. The 22-year-old opened the scoring once again for CF Montréal, curling home his effort from distance. Toye has rewarded his manager’s faith in him with two goals in two games and will be hoping to continue spearheading the side’s attack alongside Romell Quioto.
Scoring goals has never been CF Montréal’s problem – rather, it is keeping them out. Nashville SC shifted into another gear in the second half and dictated the proceedings after the restart. The Canadian side eventually succumbed to the pressure, conceding two goals off crosses. Nancy, however, is focused on the positives.
“I’m very proud of this team, they were resilient,” Nancy said. The players never gave up, I really liked the attitude. We knew that this game would be difficult, they know their strengths. Nashville put us under a lot of pressure. It is a good point for us, to be honest.”
Luis Binks’ absence continues to pose CF Montréal a problem at the back. The young Englishman took Major League Soccer by storm last season, emerging as a regular under Thierry Henry. Aljaz ‘Kiki’ Struna and Joel Waterman have since deputized for the 19-year-old, but have struggled to impose themselves.
The former had a performance to forget in the opener, while Struna failed to clear his lines on Nashville’s all-important equalizer. With Binks out injured for the foreseeable future, as per Nancy, either Waterman or Struna will need to step up.
Struna was handed his first start of the season on Saturday and struggled to deal with Nashville SC’s dynamic attack. The hosts eventually equalized, with Hany Mukhtar reacting quickest on a cross to slot home past Clement Diop.
“We knew Nashville likes getting the ball out wide and getting in crosses. (Daniel) Lovitz and (Alistair) Johnston are good crossing fullbacks,” Piette said. “The first goal came from a cross. We knew what was coming and it is disappointing to have conceded like that. An early goal in the half is always tough to concede, it gave them momentum.”
Romell Quioto could have put the game beyond doubt shortly after the restart but sent his effort inches wide. The miss was uncharacteristic from the typically prolific Honduran and could have given CF Montréal a three-goal lead. Nashville SC quickly went up the other way, with Jhonder Cadiz finding the back of the net.
“If Romell (Quioto) scores, it is a different game for sure. It is not because of that we drew today,” Piette said. “There are games that he will score that same chance. It would be stupid to blame him, but it definitely would have changed the game.”
The draw will leave a bitter taste for Montreal, but make no mistake about it , the Wilfried Nancy era is slowly starting to take shape in Montreal. Four points out of a possible six is a good start to any season, but the rookie manager would be wise to learn from his predecessor.
In many ways, last year should serve as a cautionary tale for Nancy. The Canadian side kicked off its season in top form, picking up big results over the New England Revolution, Toronto FC, and the Vancouver Whitecaps, only to go on a winless run in September. Once again, it was the side’s defensive woes that cost them crucial points. On Saturday, it was no different.
“Nashville is going to play like this against every team. We did a pretty good job defensively,” Nancy said. Considering it is only our fourth official game (two preseason games) I’m satisfied with the performance.”
The warning signs are there for CF Montréal, having already conceded four goals in two games. The Bleu, Blanc, et Noir will be put to the test next weekend, welcoming the reigning MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew into Fort Lauderdale. It may be early days, but it will be interesting to see if CF Montréal’s defense will be up to the challenge.