Saturday night serves up a real six-pointer in the Eastern Conference playoff race as CF Montréal hosts the Chicago Fire at the Stade Saputo.
Montréal’s form before the international break was a bit wild. They won two, beating rivals Toronto FC on the road before winning at home against the New England Revolution. They then lost two, though, falling to NYCFC and the Columbus Crew, who are led by their former coach Wilfried Nancy. This run sums up their whole season, to be fair, and it’s led to them going into this weekend in 8th place.
Two spots behind them is Chicago. They are in freefall, losing all four of their games between the Leagues Cup and the international break. They gave up 11 goals in that time, and they only scored once. It’s been a disastrous spell, and the Fire have fallen out of the playoff picture as a result. They could really use a win here.
Montréal will be without Aaron Herrera and Róbert Thorkelsson for the contest, while Romell Quioto is a doubt.
Chicago’s in a bit of a worse spot. The likes of Chris Mueller, Victor Bezerra, Javier Casas Jr, Federico Navarro, and Kacper Przybylko are all unavailable, while Jonathan Dean and Carlos Terán are listed as questionable.
CF Montréal: Sirois, Álvarez, Campbell, Corbo, Brault-Guillard, Piette, Saliba, Choinière, Duke, Lappalainen, Opoku
Chicago Fire: Brady, Souquet, Pineda, Czichos, M. Navarro, Giménez, Doumbia, Haile-Selassie, Shaqiri, Gutiérrez, Kamara
What to watch for
Kei Kamara revenge game
It feels like Kei Kamara has played for half of the teams in MLS, so he has a lot of revenge games, but this one will matter a bit more.
Montréal is the most recent of his former sides, and it’s where he spent the 2022 season. He had a solid campaign, and was especially good down the stretch, where he scored five goals in the team’s final nine games.
However, things weren’t as peachy off the field, which led to him wanting a move away. Chicago pounced on the opportunity, trading for him ahead of this campaign. The Sierra Leone man has quieted down after a hot start, but this weekend might be the perfect time for him to get back on the scoresheet.
Kamara will certainly be incredibly motivated for this fixture. Not only would he love to break his goalscoring duct, but he’d love to do it against the team that moved on from him this past offseason.
Watch out Landon Donovan.
Speaking of guys going against their former sides, Chicago’s own coach will be up against his former employer.
Following his previous stint with the Fire, Frank Klopas took the head coaching job at CF Montréal. It wasn’t the greatest tenure, and even though he did guide them to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, he was let go after two seasons.
The former U.S. international ended up back with the Fire as an assistant, and now he’s the interim head coach. You don’t think he’ll really want to pick up a result here?
He’s spoken kind words about his former side, but deep down he’ll be very motivated to get the win, especially since the game is in Montréal. That doesn’t even account for the huge playoff ramifications.
There’s been some questions surrounding Klopas’ tactics, and he’ll have to get them right this weekend.
Montréal plays like a proper team, with the goals and the fanfare usually spread around. However, in matches like these someone will have to step up. Who, though?
No one in the club has more than four goals in MLS this campaign, and three players are tied on that amount in terms of the Golden Boot race. Kwadwo Opoku came over from LAFC in the summer, and he already has two goals to his name with his new side.
Mathieu Choinière may be a midfielder, but he adds a nice goal threat from deep, and he can slot home a penalty if need be. The last name is the most interesting, as it’s former Fire forward Chinonso Offor. He’s just got a knack for scoring sometimes despite not playing too well in general, and knowing Chicago, it’d be very fitting if he found the back of the net this weekend.
There are some other players who could prove to be the difference on the night, like Romell Quioto, Mason Toye, Ariel Lassiter, and even Bryce Duke. Even Lassi Lappalainen, who has struggled this campaign, could turn his fortunes around with a solid performance. He has it in him.
No matter who it is, Montréal will hope that their “spread the wealth” team spirit works out when all is said and done. They don’t have any real star names like in the past, but maybe that’s helped them stay more solid. Either way, someone might prove to be the hero on Saturday.
I hope it’s Offor.
The two sides faced off only a few months ago, but man does it feel like a lot longer.
Chicago ran riot on this afternoon, beating Montréal 3-0 at Soldier Field. The contest was practically over at the half hour mark, as the hosts scored twice in the first 11 minutes before Xherdan Shaqiri slammed home a screamer in the 33rd minute.
Montréal had plenty of time to respond, but they never even came close to mounting any sort of comeback. That meant that the Fire were able to easily secure the clean sheet, the win, and all three points.
The Canadian side won both meetings last season, though. First they went to Chicago and controlled proceedings throughout, which led to a pretty simple 2-0 victory. The return fixture was more hectic, but Montréal were still able to get the job done via a 3-2 win, with a brace from current Fire forward Kei Kamara.
In total this matchup is relatively close, with Montréal winning 12, Chicago winning 8, and 6 games ending level.
How to watch
The match kicks off at 7:30 pm eastern time, and it will air live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.