CF Montreal turn to trade market ahead of crucial homestand
Published Friday, April 14, 2023 5:08PM EDT
CF Montreal defenders, including Aaron Herrera (22), walk away as New England Revolution players celebrate after Giacomo Vrioni goal in the second half of an MLS soccer match against Saturday, April 8, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. CF Montreal off to their worst start ever in Major League Soccer, ahead of a three-game homestand, beginning Saturday against D.C. United. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Stockwell
With CF Montreal off to their worst start ever in Major League Soccer, something needed to change ahead of a three-game homestand beginning Saturday against D.C. United.
Still rebuilding from an off-season that saw it sell or trade several key players, Montreal has lost five games (all on the road) out of six,fallen to last in the Eastern Conference and scored only scoring three goals to start the season.
Montreal sporting director Olivier Renard realized the team needed depth up front, and made a deal to address that on Wednesday. But change isn't cheap.
Renard sent all-star centre-back and Canadian international Kamal Miller as well as $1.3 million in general allocation money to Inter Miami in exchange for promising young midfielder Bryce Duke and winger Ariel Lassiter.
The move is both one for the future and to address the immediate concerns of the club.
"I like Duke, we were in touch with Miami for two or three months, but they rejected our offers. We're going to let him grow but he needs to earn his spot, he won't be an immediate starter because of his transfer value," said Renard on Thursday.
"I know Ari well from when he played in Costa Rica where he scored many goals. He can play on the left or as striker and with the injuries we have, we needed to react."
There is hope within the club that Duke and Lassiter will bring an increased sense of balance to a squad that's had its depth issues exacerbated by injuries in both the midfield and the attack.
With star striker Romell Quioto returning to Honduras to nurse an injury picked up against the New England Revolution last week, the active players in the squad ahead of Saturday's match have collectively scored just one goal.
One of the reasons for a lack of goals stems from the forwards not receiving the ball in dangerous areas. In six games, Montreal (1-5-0) has an expected goals total of just 5.5 -- the worst in MLS.
"There are a number of ways in which they can help the team right away. They have experience in the league and are competitors," said head coach Hernan Losada.
It is unclear, however, whether Duke or Lassiter will see any game time against United after only arriving in Montreal on Thursday, but both trained with the team on Friday afternoon.
The two new arrivals join Montreal at somewhat of a crossroads for the club. After the disastrous start, Montreal finally has some semblance of normalcy with the homestand at Stade Saputo coming up. The team played its only home game so far this season at Olympic Stadium.
United, like Montreal, is another club that has had a difficult start to the season.
After a dramatic come-from-behind win on Opening Day, D.C. (1-4-2) has gone six consecutive games without a win and scored just one goal in their last three.
Both teams will be eyeing the other as an opportunity to gain some confidence, with Montreal looking to assert itself against Losada's former club.
"That's two losses in a row that really weren't fun, and you can feel it in the dressing room that people are hungry to change that," said goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois, referencing recent 5-0 and 4-0 defeats to Vancouver and New England.
"It'll do the team good to be back home, you see how important home-field advantage is in this league and (the fans will) help us get a result."
There's a slight boost in morale among the defensive corps due to the return of defenders George Campbell, Robert Thorkelsson and Ousmane Jabang in recent days.
By adding all three central defenders, who have either had limited minutes or not played at all this season, Montreal's defence gains some reinforcements during a particularly congested part of the schedule.
With the departure of Miller, there is also an opening in the team's starting lineup. All of Campbell, Thorkelsson and Jabang as well as the returning Gabriele Corbo will be vying for that spot.
"Players are slowly but surely coming back and that's bringing more competition for places which is good," said Losada. "The competition is going to help everyone play better. We absolutely have to do better."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2023.