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Striker Offor is making a mark for CF Montreal

Chinonso Offor Chinonso Offor - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Physical, imposing and in mid-season form, striker Chinonso Offor is beginning to make a name for himself at CF Montreal after spending five months on loan in Belgium.

The Nigerian has come off the bench in all four of Montreal's games this Major League Soccer season and has established himself as a force in the penalty area.

Standing at six-foot-four, Offor casts an imposing shadow on most MLS defenders. His physicality led to his first goal for the club in Montreal’s 3-2 over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.

After muscling off two Union defenders, Offor was the first to hop on a rebound that had hit the crossbar and scored with a powerful header.

"I was anticipating the ball and thinking that it might come back to me, Offor said. "I knew the defender was going to put his leg there so I had to get my head there first, if he hits me first that’s fine, the doctors can fix that.

"When you have a body like this, it has to be a part of your game. In these kinds of games, you need to man up so the opposition knows there’s a presence."

Having only had two weeks between his return from Belgian Pro League side Zulte Waregem and the beginning of the MLS season, Offor finds himself in the advantageous position being in peak game shape while the league is just getting underway. In his four substitute appearances, he has used his fitness to take advantage of tired and error-prone back lines.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Offor will become a starter, as he has a similar game to star attacker Romell Quioto.

"I don’t think he would have the same impact coming from the bench than starting," said Montreal head coach Hernan Losada. "It depends on when you come in, what the result is, and what is needed right now.

"He didn’t have a break, so on paper he’s a lot fitter than most players. I hope he keeps on growing like that until the end of the season."

The club lost a significant presence in the penalty area before the season with the trade of Kei Kamara to Chicago. Kamara’s towering frame and instinct for goal has made him one of the most prolific goal scorers in MLS history.

Replacing such a player would not be easy, especially given Montreal’s issues with depth up top, but Offor has made it his mission to do just that.

Offor appears to have a knack for reading the momentum of a game and swinging it in Montreal’s direction. In just over an hour of play time over four games, he’s used his size to create several chances and score a goal in the process.

"My physicality is already such an important part of my game, now I just need to be a bit more of a bully on the pitch," Offor said. "If (Losada) calls on me to start, then I’ll be ready, but it’s his call and until then I’ll do what I can to help the team."

CF Montreal are off this week, giving the club the opportunity to rehab the numerous knocks and injuries that the squad has suffered in recent months.

The club returns to action on the road against Canadian rival Vancouver at B.C. Place on April 1.

WATERMAN SIGNS: CF Montreal signed Canadian defender Joel Waterman to a two-year extension on Thursday. The contract runs through the 2024 season, with an option year in 2025. Waterman, 27, has played four seasons in Montreal, logging a total of 5,255 minutes since joining in 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.