CF Montreal will make just their fourth all-time trip to play the Seattle Sounders tonight. High-quality soccer is expected from both teams as they try to continue their upward trajectories. Here are five things to know:
Star man Djordje Mihailovic unavailable
The new project happening in Montreal under French head coach Wilfried Nancy has been very exciting for fans to follow. Intra-league trades, international acquisitions, and the integration of an impressive young generation of Canadian youth players have all played a big part in building up this Montreal team to what it is now.
The face of the project has been United States international and Chicago Fire Academy product Djordje Mihailovic. His 10-goal involvements in 14 appearances for the club had him frequently mentioned as an early MVP candidate and best-XI nominee, so it was a huge blow when he came off the field on May 28 against FC Cincinnati with an ankle injury. Djordje has still yet to feature for Montreal since the injury, and he’s already been ruled out for this game.
Throughout the season, the Sounders have had a number of players struggle with injuries, varying in severity. Xavier Arreaga and Raúl Ruidíaz are the latest starters to fall to the injury bug and will miss at least the next and are likely out for the Toronto FC match as well, but Brian Schmetzer is hopeful they will both be available and ready to go against the Portland Timbers on July 9. Obed Vargas will unfortunately be out for even longer. Obed has recently returned to Alaska to spend time with family as he rehabilitates his back injury. Josh Atencio also continues to be out while under “health and safety protocols.”
In a sign that he's likely out for an extended period, Brian Schmetzer said Obed Vargas has returned to Alaska to spend time with family and "decompress mentally."— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) June 28, 2022
Luckily for the Sounders, their injury struggles haven’t seemed to impact their ability to earn results in impressive fashion. Saturday’s 3-0 thumping of Sporting Kansas City is a great example of that.
Unique tactical battle
Montreal and Seattle are both good teams in their own ways. Most notably, Montreal plays with a back 3. Their athletic and technical wingbacks stretch the field to make space for their two inverted wingers to create chances and be goal dangerous. It has proven to be a recipe for success against most Eastern Conference teams, but not against Western Conference teams. Of a possible 12 points against Western Conference opponents, Montreal has only picked up 3 in a win against Canadian rivals Vancouver.
In contrast, Seattle plays with a back 4 and overloads the middle of the field with a constant threat in behind. It will likely be a defensive stand-off with few opportunities.
Post-CCL form has been good for both teams
Both Montreal and Seattle participated in the 2022 edition of the Concacaf Champions League. Montreal qualified for the quarterfinals of the tournament but failed to make it past Liga MX opposition Cruz Azul. Seattle qualified for the final and beat Liga MX giants Pumas UNAM at home to win the title. Coinciding with their participation in this competition, their MLS form took a hit. Montreal had zero points from their first four MLS matches and Seattle had seven points from their first seven. Since then, both of these teams have shot up the table in their respective conferences. Montreal from dead last to third in the East, and Seattle from last place to seventh in the West.
Similar Sounders lineup to Saturday expected
The 3-0 thrashing of SKC has definitely instilled a lot of confidence in the lineup selected by Brian Schmetzer. Montreal will be one of the biggest tests of the 2022 MLS season for the Sounders to date, so the same lineup that beat SKC on Saturday will likely take the field again tonight. It would not be surprising to see some early substitutes made by Schmetzer with an away day in Toronto on the horizon, but getting an early lead against this Montreal team will be very important to controlling the match and earning the three points.