MONTREAL — CF Montreal is just one point away from clinching home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs after securing a 3-2 win over the Chicago Fire at Stade Saputo on Tuesday.
Kei Kamara scored twice and Zachary Brault-Guillard added another for Montreal (17-9-5) while Xherdan Shaqiri scored twice from the penalty spot for Chicago (9-14-8).
After a timid start from both teams, the home side would break through in the 21st minute. Ismaël Kone sent a low shot into the box that was redirected by Kamara into the net to put Montreal on the board.
Eight minutes later, Kone won the ball in the midfield and played Kamara in, who scored again to give Montreal an early 2-0 lead.
“Life is easy when Kei is out there and you’re trying to find him. He has the experience and that leadership on the field to make the game so simple,” said Kone, who was sent off the last time the two teams met. “It felt really good to get out there and have a strong game. Last time, it ended early, and I wanted to get that back.”
Despite the early deficit, Chicago found its way back into the game.
In the 38th minute, Montreal goalkeeper Sebastien Breza threw himself into Fire forward Jhon Duran, who had been played through, and conceded a penalty. Shaqiri scored a minute later on a penalty kick to pull Chicago within one.
Montreal didn’t let the goal faze them as they got right back on the attack. This time, Kamara played the role of provider, finding Brault-Guillard in space. He then fired a low hard shot across the 'keeper and restored Montreal’s two-goal lead in the 44th minute.
“In the locker room, we say ‘anybody can score a goal.’ It’s not just depending on the strikers to score a goal and we don’t count on one any person to score,” said Kamara. “My role coming in here was to assist, not just on the field, but assist the guys off the field too.”
Montreal’s lack of discipline allowed Chicago back into the game in the 57th minute.
Despite being nowhere near the ball, defender Joel Waterman took down Duran, who drew his second penalty of the game. Shaqiri stepped up to take the penalty for the second time and made no mistake, completing his brace to make it 3-2.
“That’s football, you know, it happens all the time,” said Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy. “These are new opportunities to challenge my players to be better. The next game, something (is) going to happen again and that’s one of the reasons I love this game.”
Despite an increase in pressure from the Fire — who needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive — the scoresheet didn’t change in the final half-hour.
Both teams are back in action on Sept. 17 as Montreal travels to New England to face the Revolution, while Chicago returns home to host Charlotte FC.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2022.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press