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CF Montreal holds Western leader Real Salt Lake to scoreless draw

Real Salt Lake's Cristian Arango and CF Montreal's Nathan-Dylan Saliba Real Salt Lake's Cristian Arango and CF Montreal's Nathan-Dylan Saliba - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — CF Montreal welcomed back four key players from injury as they played to a 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Stade Saputo.

This was Montreal’s (4-7-6) fourth 0-0 draw this season while Western Conference leaders Salt Lake City (9-2-7) extended their MLS undefeated streak to 14 games.

Both teams began the match timidly, not pressing too high and leaving as little space to be exploited as possible. It took 15 minutes for the first shot on target to finally be registered, after which the game’s pace increased significantly.

“I’m torn between regretting the chances we missed and not being too greedy because there was a very good team in front of us, so there are some mixed feelings,” said Montreal's head coach Laurent Courtois.

“I’m really happy for the guys who came back and put in a great effort, just like the staff to come back at a good level, that brings a whole new dynamic to training, too.”

Montreal had the best chance of the half as Dominic Iankov got on the end of a dangerous cross but could only put the point-blank shot into the waiting hands of Salt Lake City keeper Zac MacMath.

Real’s pace and aggression caused problems for Montreal which continued to attempt playing out from the back. They routinely won the ball high up the pitch and — while unable to convert the possession into a dangerous chance — forced the hosts into several uncomfortable defensive situations.

It took Montreal roughly half an hour to grow into the game fully and successfully break Salt Lake City’s high press, leading to a much more open game despite no breakthrough in the opening 45 minutes.

“It’s complicated when you play at home because the guys want to go hard and play with some rhythm, but you have to keep in mind who’s in front of you,” said Courtois. “It was a little too cautious in my opinion, but I can’t blame them because it’s a really thin margin until you get open too fast.”

The game continued at this pace during the second half as both teams pushed for the game’s first goal. Diego Luna thought he had found a breakthrough just after the hour mark but was denied by the post.

With their defensive struggles this season Montreal managed to eliminate the majority of the threat from Real’s high-powered attack. By marking MVP front-runner Cristian (Chicho) Arango out of the game, they kept the second-best offence in MLS off the scoresheet for the first time since April 13 and just the third time all season.

“I watched his individual clips and got in the right mindset during the week to make sure that when these top-level guys and MVP candidates come here, they don’t get anything,” said Montreal's Joel Waterman.

“Arango’s been scoring goals what seems like every single game, so of course I’m going to take that personally, he’s in my space and I’m going up against him more than anybody else.”

The second half also saw the return of four key players in Matias Coccaro, Mason Toye, Mahala Opoku, and Lassi Lappalainen who had all missed significant time through injury. Their inclusion brought the injection of pace that had been missing before, as Montreal enjoyed the lion’s share of the chances and the offence, although it was not enough to secure the three points.


Both teams are back in action Wednesday as C-F Montreal hosts New York Red Bull, while Real Salt Lake visits Sporting Kansas City.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2024.