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CF Montreal in tough to solve road woes as hostile Atlanta crowd awaits

Hernan Losada CF Montreal Hernan Losada - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — CF Montreal’s poor road form will once again be put to the test as it closes out a busy week against Atlanta on Saturday evening.

Coming off disappointing draws at home against Chicago and Cincinnati, Montreal (11-14-4) must now get back continue a push to the post-season against Atlanta (12-8-10) and a very hostile crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The draw against East-leading Cincinnati was especially tough, with Montreal conceding the equalizer seven minutes into added time.

“It’s important to look forward towards the next game because we don’t have that much time to prepare,” said Montreal head coach Hernan Losada. “It’s a bit wasteful to fixate too much on the past, especially when you can change it.

“We have to take away the positives of the fact that we were very competitive against the best team in the league and could’ve won up until the last minute, but we have the rest of the season to focus on now.”

While a win in Atlanta would redeem any recent shortcomings at home, that is easier said than done. Montreal will be travelling to its third game in just seven days and will need to take points off one of the best home teams in Major League Soccer, something the club has not been able to do all season.

In fact, all eight of Montreal’s points away from Stade Saputo — tied for the second fewest in the league — have come against some of the worst home teams in MLS. With a -23 goal differential on the road, a league worst, Montreal’s hope now is that the momentum from its excellent home defensive record can translate.

“We’re going to need to rely on our good defensive performances, not just from the back line, but from the entire group. If we can find a way to give ourselves a bit of space by scoring then it’s even better,” said captain Samuel Piette. “As we saw (against Cincinnati), you don’t need a bunch of chances to score a goal.”

Since being eliminated from the Leagues Cup, Atlanta have brought in significant reinforcements in the summer transfer window. Most notably was the arrival of Georgian winger Saba Lobzhanidze from Turkish Super Lig side Fatih Karagumruk.

Lobzhanidze has had an immediate impact, registering five goal contributions in his first five games with Atlanta. His presence added more punch to one of the best attacks in MLS spearheaded by MVP candidates Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis.

“Every team in this league has two or three players that you have to watch out for, but in the summer transfer window, they brought in a few good players and that’s why they have this run of good results,” said Losada. “They’re an opponent to respect. We’ll try and take care of those players, but we’re looking more at the collective.”

With five games remaining and just three points separating eighth-place Montreal and 10th-place New York City, every point that can be won will prove vital come Decision Day. That is all the more important for Montreal, which will be playing three of those games on the road against the Eastern Conference’s best.

“There are still a lot of games left to play and I’m really confident with the group we have,” said Piette. “Soccer is a very weird sport at times, and we’ll have to wait and see what kind of game wait for us in Atlanta.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.