United FC-CF Montreal Preview

National Sports

CF Montreal have a chance to quickly respond to their “frustrating” loss at lowly Inter Miami CF when they welcome Atlanta United to Stade Saputo on Wednesday.

The Canadian outfit led at half-time against MLS’ bottom side, only for Gonzalo Higuain to net twice in the second half as Montreal fell to a third straight defeat.

It was an error-strewn performance from Wilfried Nancy’s side and leaves them hanging on to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with half of the regular season played.

“We have a style of play. There are situations in which we need to get rid of the ball,” Montreal defender Zorhan Bassong said of the blunder leading to Inter’s winner.

“But we keep respecting our principles of play. We learn from our mistakes. I’m frustrated with the loss. For me, it’s a game we shouldn’t lose.”

Montreal have a quick turnaround in fixtures, with an even more out-of-sorts Atlanta up next.

The Five Stripes are still without a head coach after parting company with Gabriel Heinze last month and are without a win in a club-record 11 matches, losing the last two of those.

That most recent win on May 11 came against Montreal, however, and Atlanta will be boosted in midweek by the return of Ezequiel Barco following his return from international duty.

“Some of the stuff he does can win us games,” centre-back Anton Walkes said. “If he can contribute the way he does that can change the tide for us. It’s like a new signing.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

CF Montreal – Joaquin Torres

Torres has made a huge impression in his first four starts for Montreal, scoring twice – including his side’s only goal in the loss to Inter Miami – and assisting two more. Indeed, the 24-year-old has contributed to four of Montreal’s last six goals since being brought into the side.

Atlanta United – Ezequiel Barco

In the five games Barco has missed while away at the Olympics with Argentina, Atlanta have collected two points from a possible 15. As pointed out by teammate Walkes, central midfielder Barco can provide something a little different, though Valentino will not want to rush his return to the side.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Montreal won their first meeting with Atlanta 2-1 at home in April 2017. Atlanta have won five of the six meetings since (D1), outscoring Montreal 12-4 in those games.

– Montreal’s last 11 matches have either been drawn (two) or decided by a one goal margin (W4 L5), including all three matches on their current losing streak. Montreal’s last game decided by at least two goals was a 2-0 win over Inter Miami on May 12.

– Atlanta’s club record winless run extended to 11 matches with a loss to Orlando City on Friday (D6 L5). Atlanta have lost consecutive matches for the first time this season and they have only lost three in a row three times in club history, with all of those streaks occurring last season.

– Josef Martínez’s goal after 47 seconds against Orlando City on Friday was the fastest goal scored in Atlanta’s MLS history. Martinez has been responsible for four of the seven goals United have scored in the opening three minutes of matches in the club’s MLS history.

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