Must See: Messi curls in a beauty


CONCACAF Champions Cup: Nashville SC 2, Inter Miami 2

MONTREAL — CF Montreal’s impressive start to the 2024 season will be put to the test as they travel to Florida on Sunday to take on Lionel Messi and top-ranked Inter Miami.

Since joining MLS as an expansion team in 2020, Miami has had difficulty finding its place in the league, making the playoffs only once.

However, the arrival of Messi and fellow former FC Barcelona stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba during last summer’s international transfer window resulted in Miami winning the inaugural Leagues Cup and reaching the final of the U.S. Open Cup within months of the players joining the team.

Miami further bolstered its lineup in the off-season by adding a fourth Barcelona teammate, European Golden Shoe winner Luis Suarez.

“They’re some of the best players in the world, so we have to work as a collective and minimize the space of play where they can be dangerous,” said Montreal coach Laurent Courtois, whose team opened the MLS season with a 0-0 tie in Orlando followed by last week’s 2-1 win in Dallas.

“We also have to find a way to play our game, we have nothing to lose. We’re playing the biggest team in the league and I just want the guys to approach the game with a mix of enjoyment and focus, we have to remain humble in front of this opposition.”

Defence has been the key to Montreal’s impressive start. Courtois has deployed a back-five with two high-tempo central midfielders who can cover lots of ground to win the ball back.

“We have a great defensive shape, we stay really compact and our block is well built, it’s one of the things we’re doing best right now,” said captain Samuel Piette. “There’s a real group effort dedicated to allowing as few scoring chances as possible, let alone goals.

Not much has been seen in regards to the high-octane, possession-based play that most would have come to expect from a Courtois team. However, with the first six games away from home, we’re starting to see bite-sized moments of what that might look like.

After last season’s disastrous 2-13-2 road record, Montreal looks like a team renewed in both confidence and energy with new players Ruan, Matias Coccaro and others blending seamlessly into the group.

What seemed like a timid submission to home teams just a year ago has now turned into an insatiable defiance, pressing the opposition high up the pitch, and daring them to play out from the back.

“If you look at the way we started the game against Orlando, one of the best teams in the East, we have a belief that this can be done against anybody,” said Courtois. “We have to remain humble in our execution, but our intentions have to be to win everything.”

With a very congested few weeks due to the CONCACAF Champions Cup, Miami may look to rotate its squad against Montreal with the second leg of their round of 16 tie with Nashville SC scheduled for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, striker Josef Martinez could get his first start in a Montreal jersey against his former club due to injury concerns with Coccaro, Mahala Opoku, and Dominic Iankov. The former MLS MVP and surprise off-season acquisition came off the bench to score the winner against FC Dallas last week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2024.