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CF Montreal blanked by DC United, miss chance to book knockout stage ticket

Mathieu Choiniere Chris Durkin CF Montreal DC United Mathieu Choiniere Chris Durkin - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — CF Montreal’s Leagues Cup knockout stage hopes are out of their control after losing 1-0 to DC United in their second and final group stage match at Stade Saputo on Wednesday evening.

“We created enough chances to win this game and the second half was completely dominant,” said head coach Hernan Losada. “I don’t believe the team could have done more than this. I’m very proud of all the efforts we made to create so many opportunities to score. It’s painful, but we know that it’s going to be like that until the end of the season.

The game was far more open than previous meetings between the two teams this season.

DC pushed higher up the field, and seemed happy trading chances with Montreal and forcing multiple saves from goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois.

Montreal began to control the ball more after the opening 20 minutes, forcing United to retreat into their low defensive block but could not find a breakthrough before halftime.

“For the first half, I think we held the ball really well, we played and made good passes which allowed us to play on the front foot,” said DC assistant coach Pete Shuttleworth. “It’s never going to last 90 minutes and we didn’t play with the ball as well so you have to go into your low block and play the other side of the game,”

The second half continued in the same direction as United continued to absorb pressure and rebuff long stints of Montreal possession.

Chances continued to come for the hosts as Bryce Duke and Mahala Opoku linked up on the counterattack and found Zachary Brault-Guillard all alone in front of goal, but was rejected by the foot of Alex Bono.

“I’ve known Mahala since I first starter in the league at 18 so that chemistry’s there and we’re comfortable playing with each other on the field,” said Duke. “I felt like we definitely had our opportunities and broke them down and had some good plays going forward. As soon as it clicks, the sky is the limit.”

Creating and then converting chances has been Montreal’s biggest setback this season, with inconsistent form and fitness from attackers combined with difficulty breaking down low blocks leading to one of the worst offences in Major League Soccer.

“It was already like that and I believe now that we’re playing a lot better. We are creating chances, playing football on the ground and having a lot of movement up front,” said Losada. “Unfortunately the final touch is still something that we’re missing, but it’s something that we’ve been missing all year”

Then just after the 70-minute mark, United found the opening goal against the run of play.

A costly turnover from Mathieu Choinière just outside the Montreal penalty area allowed Hurtado to go through on goal alone, go around a sprawling Sirois and give the visitors the lead.

In the 79th minute, Montreal had another chance to equalize, but Choinière's shot was cleared off the line by Derrick Williams.

With the loss, Montreal will be regretting losing a crucial point in the previous game even more. While up 2-0 in the dying stages, they allowed Pumas UNAM to come from behind and force a penalty shootout, costing Montreal a point as regulation victories yield three, and shootout wins only two.

“It’s frustrating because we played a good game against Pumas, we get three points if we don’t concede at the end but we were still in a good position,” said captain Samuel Piette. “Now, it went from us being in a good position to us having to wait and see.”

Montreal will not reach the next round unless DC beat Pumas in either regulation or penalties when they face off in the final game of Group M at Audi Field on Jul. 29.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2023.