CF Montreal tops Quebec semi-pro all-stars in friendly, looks to build on progression
MONTREAL — After four long weeks, CF Montreal concluded the first leg of training camp with a 6-1 win over the Première ligue de soccer du Québec’s all-star team in a friendly match on Friday.
Sunusi Ibrahim, with two goals, Nathan Saliba, Kamal Miller, Kei Kamara, and Romell Quioto all scored for Montreal. In its second friendly in as many weeks, the team is slowly beginning to find its rhythm as it cruised past the best of the province's semi-pro scene.
“It’s a friendly at the end of the day but we still take it seriously. We don’t look at the score, but focus on the quality of play,” said assistant coach and former Montreal defender Laurent Ciman.
“However, the last 15 minutes were not good. We dribbled in our own area and were messing around too much so we have to take this more seriously.”
Montreal dominated the ball and consistently on the offensive, allowing the club to analyze its players on the front end. With the backline virtually unchanged, it will be vital for the coaching staff to sort out its lineup on the attack with the gaping hole left by Djordje Mihailovic’s move to the Netherlands.
Although unclear if head coach Hernan Losada will line up two attacking midfielders behind one striker or vice versa, the squad’s versatility is one of its strong points.
“There isn’t one formation that we prefer over the other, I’m comfortable in both and we’re very adjustable on the pitch and it’ll become clearer when we get our fitness back.” said captain Samuel Piette.
“I think the game last week against the u-23s was a bit more clunky than today. I felt more comfortable today and that’s something that you improve while you train and play.”
The focus for three of the four weeks of camp has been getting into shape. Despite athletes training in the off-season, getting back into a routine and rhythm, as well as their step back is important.
“There are two main goals (at the start of camp). First, have to have a good solid physical base and make sure there are no injuries and secondly, we have to get to know each other and create a good friendly environment before Florida,” said Losada.
“In Florida, we’re going to be a lot more focused on the friendlies, so these four weeks have been very promising and we’ve achieved those goals.”
The friendlies also allow players without a solidified starting position to prove themselves worthy of playing time. One standout has been Saliba, an academy product that has yet to carve out any playing time but has shown considerable improvement with his versatility.
Naturally a box-to-box winger, Saliba has also impressed as part of a two-man pivot and more attacking roles, making him a potentially useful piece off the bench.
“I think I’ve had a really good camp so far. I found my rhythm really quickly and I’m starting to make my place in the team,” said Saliba, who opened the scoring Friday with a rising header.
"There’s a lot of competition in the midfield this year but I think that I have a really good chance at having some great results for myself and play more during these friendlies.”
The club now heads to Florida for its final three weeks of camp.
Montreal will play friendlies against Florida International University, the Houston Dynamo, Inter Miami, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies before their season opener in Miami on Feb. 25.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press