Forward Ariel Lassiter is making a name for himself with CF Montreal
MONTREAL — Midfielder Bryce Duke was on everyone's mind upon his arrival to CF Montreal, but forward Ariel Lassiter has found a way to make himself part of the conversation.
When CF Montreal sporting director Olivier Renard acquired Duke from Inter Miami FC, he knew the 22-year-old fit the team's philosophy. Renard saw Duke as a player to develop who could help Montreal win while also having high resale potential.
For now, Duke is proving him right.
Renard could also say he made a great move by acquiring Lassiter, the 28-year-old veteran acquired alongside Duke in the trade that sent Kamal Miller to Miami.
Lassiter has given CF Montreal more flexibility on both offence and defence, and played an important role in the team's recent run of five straight wins, including two in the Canadian Championship.
"I think the team just needed a little bit of life, a different perspective, a positive outlook,” said Lassiter. “When we got here we said this team has all the qualities it needs to be successful. Now it was just about putting the pieces together."
After tallying four goals and five assists in 30 games and 17 starts with Inter Miami in 2022, Lassiter seemed a bit lost in the squad's setup this season. Before the trade, he had only played 143 minutes in seven matches in 2023.
With CF Montreal's injury list full of starters, head coach Hernan Losada didn't hesitate to give Lassiter a role on offence, particularly due to his speed, ability to deliver crosses and comfort with his left foot.
Since his arrival, the Costa Rican has proved his worth and already started three out of four Major League Soccer matches, totalling 287 minutes.
"Ariel and Bryce brought a good mentality to the team. They came here to play, to win, and to show that they are capable of playing more minutes than they had in Miami," said Losada.
In the last two MLS games, both 2-0 wins, Losada wanted to harness the creativity of his players and opted to use Lassiter as a left-back.
More accustomed to playing as a forward, Lassiter still needs to adjust to the role. But the excellent results so far — for him and the team — show he’s making strides in the right direction.
"My most important thing is, wherever the coach and wherever the team needs me to play, that’s where I’ll play," he said. "Obviously, it's a bit different for me because as a wing back you also have to defend. You have to be solid in that aspect of the game as well.
“So to help the team and provide that as well on the attacking side of it, it’s a big positive for me. I’ll do whatever helps the team win.”
Lassiter quickly found an ally on the left side. Defender Joel Waterman, who is also adapting to a new position on that side, has developed good cohesion with his new teammate.
"(Lassiter) has been fantastic, he’s really embraced that role,” said Waterman. “He stated before it may not be his strongest position, but he’s been fantastic. Both going forward, taking guys on one-on-one, speed, crossing, good deliveries, but also on the defensive side of the ball … he’s in the right positions and he helps our back line out very well too.”
Injured players are gradually returning to the Montreal squad, but Lassiter has not given Losada any reason to remove him from the starting eleven, at least for now.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2023.
Simon Servant, The Canadian Press