CF Montreal returned to winning ways albeit after a lengthy weather delay, condemning Inter Miami CF to its second defeat in its opening five games. The lightning subsided after two hours, with the Canadian side eventually seeing out the 2-0 result. More importantly, CF Montreal put its recent goalscoring woes in the rearview mirror with an impressive performance in Fort Lauderdale.
Wilfried Nancy opted to field a heavily rotated side against Inter Miami FC, deploying Ahmed Hamdy, Lassi Lappalainen, and James Pantemis from the first minute. Quick starts have become the norm in the early days of the Nancy era, with CF Montreal scoring five of its eight goals this season within the opening 30 minutes.
In fact, no team in Major League Soccer has more first-half goals than the Canadian side. Wednesday’s clash against Inter Miami was no different, with le Bleu-Blanc-et Noir getting off to a hot start.
“I don’t know if it was our most mature performance, but it is the one I’m the proudest of,” Nancy said. “We suffered in the second half, but I loved the team’s attitude. The guys were mentally strong.”
Bjørn Johnsen repaid his manager’s faith in him on Wednesday, picking up a first-half brace. The Norwegian forward struggled in his first start against the Vancouver Whitecaps, spurning a high-quality chance from in close. Johnsen quickly made amends in his side’s victory over Inter Miami CF, opening the scoring inside 15 minutes. The 29-year-old doubled CF Montreal’s lead just 10 minutes later, poking his effort past John McCarthy.
“I learned as an assistant coach that sometimes you have an instinct, a feeling,” Nancy said on his decision to stick with Johnsen up front. “It was my feeling today, and it was good. I am not surprised by what he did today.”
The victory, however, did come at a cost. Djordje Mihailovic was limped off with a knee injury in the first half. The former Chicago Fire midfielder put in a dominant shift until he was subbed off, registering an inch-perfect assist on Johnsen’s opener.
CF Montreal will be hoping its playmaker will not be sidelined for too long after his positive performances. Mihailovic has played an integral role in the side’s early success, pulling all the right strings in the middle of the park. The 22-year-old previously suffered a rupture to his cruciate ligament in 2017, missing most of the season 2017-2018 season. Nancy quickly played down the seriousness of the injury after the game.
“It is still too early, but it is nothing serious. I’m not very worried,” Nancy said. “He was subbed off as a precaution.”
Egyptian Under-23 Ahmed Hamdy stepped up admirably from an advanced position, injecting some much-needed creativity between the lines. The 23-year-old has made the most of his opportunities since making the switch to CF Montreal and is slowly making his case for more regular minutes.
Hamdy was once again at the heart of the action for the Canadian side, nearly opening his account on the season with a shot from distance. With an intriguing clash against Atalanta United on the horizon, Nancy will turn to the Egyptian to provide that extra spark in the final third.
The rookie boss has entrusted his bench thus far, handing no fewer than 24 players minutes this season already. CF Montreal’s depth players did not disappoint Nancy on Wednesday, putting in a dominant shift over Inter Miami FC. According to Nancy, heavy rotation is very much a part of his philosophy.
“When I spoke to Olivier (Renard) it was my vision to include as many players as possible,” Nancy said. “When it is the right moment, I will do it. Today I did not hesitate when picking my team. Other players deserved to play, the group has been performing well and they are working very hard.”
The Canadian side once again played on the front foot, pressing the opposition high up the pitch, and looked to dictate the tempo. While the weather delay halted CF Montreal’s momentum, Nancy’s men maintained their composure, registering their second clean sheet of the season.
Confidence is at an all-time high in the early goings of the new season, with CF Montreal losing just one of its opening five games.
“People doubted us. We are not an exotic team like Miami with Higuain, Shawcross, and Neville as coach,” Johnsen said. It’s good to play as an underdog. Today, it looked like we were playing with the home-team advantage.
CF Montreal has benefitted from newfound stability at the back after struggling last season, posting the Eastern Conference’s worst defensive record. It may be early days, but as of right now, Nancy is pushing all the right buttons in the CF Montreal hot-seat.
CF Montreal currently finds itself in a tie for first place after five games, emerging as this season’s early surprise package. The Canadian side will make its way to the Mercedez-Benz Stadium to take on Atlanta United on Saturday in yet another direct clash with a fellow Eastern Conference competitor. Johnsen is not setting any limits for his side heading into Saturday’s clash.
“I don’t think any of the teams we have played so far could handle us,” Johnsen said. “We are a team to be reckoned with and showing that all the hard work is paying off.”