Matchday 18 preview: CF Montréal vs. MNUFC

Matchday 18
AppleTV  | 1500 ESPN

After closing out a tight run of games last weekend by salvaging an emotional home draw against Toronto FC, Minnesota United will surely have enjoyed a full week of recovery and preparation before heading east to face CF Montréal. As head coach Adrian Heath said after training during the week, “you could see there was an extra zip in the players. I think mentally, as much as physically, it was good for them to get away and have a few days. It’s never easy; nine games in 31 days with the travel involved as well. We gave them some time off, but it was nice to get a really nice, hard session in the midweek of a full week.” The club will also have been encouraged by the return of Emanuel Reynoso who, in a 25 minute shift, his first of the season, was at mid-season form, creating chances for himself, elevating the Loons’ offense, and setting up the equalizing goal. That he has apparently been accepted back into the club speaks volumes, although what it says is not quite clear. Rested and reinforced, tonight feels like a big opportunity for the team to find its finishing touch against a mid-table Eastern conference team with an incredibly porous defense. Minnesota, though, will also need to return to its early season road results, having lost 5 of its last 6 away from St. Paul since winning its first 3 road games of the season.

After a break-out 2022 – 2nd in the East, 2 points off eventual MLS Cup finalists Philadelphia Union in the East and 2 points off Supporters’ Shield winners, and MLS Cup winners, LAFC – an apparent front office disagreement led to a change of direction for CF Montréal in 2023, with ex-head coach Wilfried Nancy finding a bit of joy in Columbus, and new Montréal head coach Hernán Losada finding a second chance after a troubled short run in charge of DC United. They also saw much of their starting line-up leave in the offseason for what looks like another full rebrand of the team. The leadership change brought a tactical change that has so far yielded mixed results, Montréal sitting 10th in the East. Ending their own tight run of games with a mid-week loss in the Canadian Championship L’Impact will be desperate to avoid a letdown as they move into the heart of the season trying to settle into their new style.


MIN: 7th in the West, 20 pts, 5-6-5 (road record 4-5-0)

15 g, 18 ga (23.1xG, 17.2xGA)

Last five games: DLD(L)W

Last game: 6/3 MIN 1-1 TOR (Arriaga 89’)(Insigne 58’)

MTL: 10th in the East, 19 pts, 6-9-1 (home record 5-1-0)

15g, 27ga (16.4xG, 24.3xGA)

Last five games: ()LDW(W)

Last game: 6/7 VAN 2-1 MTL (White 57′, Gauld 65′ (PK))(Ibrahim 83′)(Canadian Championship final)

Last MLS game: 6/3 PHI 3-0 MTL (Carranza 12’, 61’, Uhre 36’)

All-time head-to-head: 3-0-0 (8g, 4ga) (MIN road record 2-0-0)

Last meeting: July 6, 2019, MTL 2-3 MIN (Jackson-Hamel 1’, Camacho 13’)(Toye 9’, 47’, Finlay 45’+2’ (PK))

What to watch

In two recent state-of-the-state reports on analytics in MLS from American Soccer Analysis, Minnesota ranked at or near the bottom of both the peer-reviewed and tiered rankings, in the latter slotting into Tier 3, the “We have a very important analytic and that’s the score” tier. Still, the numbers really do like Minnesota at the moment, with the team’s 23.1xG in the top 10 for the league, while their 15 goals scored is tied for 4th lowest in the league, a wild -8.3 G-xG. With the return of Emanuel Reynoso, the team is gaining one of the best chance creators in MLS, although what that will do to the numbers, and which numbers, goals or chances, is to be seen; in the three seasons with Reynoso Minnesota has finished with +1.5G-xG (2022), -15.2G-xG (2021), and -.7 G-xG (2020). All of which is to say, again, that goals, not statistics, change games.

Tonight, as he makes his way back into fitness and form, the club will get a chance to see if Reynoso will add to the chance creation the team has found in his absence or if it will revert to a Reynoso dependent style. But against one of the worst defenses in the league (Montréal’s 27 goals conceded tied for 3rd most while their -12 goal differential is 2nd worst), it may not matter. Taking the field opposite a team they should match up well against, Minnesota could revert to its best form tonight, sitting back and absorbing the pressure of Montréal’s high-energy offense, while being decisive on the counter through an at times wide-open defense.

After the troubles that developed at DC United, Losada began his tenure at Montréal a bit chastened and willing to learn. But as he has adjusted to his new club and team, his principles have remained in place, working towards a high-intensity, high-pressure Bielsa-inspired chaos out of either a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-1-2. When it is on it can lead to some quite joyful soccer. It also, though, tends to leave the team vulnerable in the back, a problem they may be solving at home. And on a night when we should be more interested in the air quality than in the games, a high-intensity approach may be hard to sustain.

Who to watch

Emmanuel Reynoso. Yes, of course. But also as the new center of gravity on a team that was slowly and in fits and starts learning to create chances without him. With the possibility of a longer run-out as he continues to gain fitness, the real question will be how the players around Reynoso respond to his presence. Will Ménder García and Sang Bin Jeong find new confidence in trying the unexpected run believing Reynoso will find them, or will they wait for his magic to release? Will Bongokuhle Hlongwane feel a greater freedom next to his new #10 or will he lose time with the ball at his feet, the time necessary to open his creativity? Will the team remain compact out of possession, or will the option of a true play-making #10 allow them to stay disjointed?

After picking up a knock in the US Open cup win over Detroit City FC and then earning two quick yellows in the US Open Cup loss to Houston Kervin Arriaga has struggled for time. In a crowded central midfield he seems, at the moment, to be the odd man out. But after putting in a great, if short, 25-minute shift against Toronto, scoring the equalizer in the 89th minute, he may be another good shift, if given the chance tonight, from forcing Heath to make a decision again in the midfield.

After an exceptional run of games from the two young Loons, Joseph Rosales and DJ Taylor both had less than great nights against Toronto. While Rosales seemed to suffer from a lack of consistency that can only be overcome with time and opportunity, sheer exhaustion seemed to get the better of Taylor. Both will need to step back into it in Montréal if they get the chance.

In addition to a new head coach, Montréal’s roster went through a substantial rebuild in the off-season. Losing a number of big players, the last change was, at the time, difficult to understand, as the team traded Canadian international, fan favorite, and defensive stalwart Kamal Miller and $1.3million in GAM to Inter Miami for Bryce Duke and Ariel Lassiter a few weeks into the season. Duke was easy to see for his potential, but given the chance he has proven his value now, adding a goal and an assist for his new team, but also rising to 4th on the team in key passes and 4th on the team in shot creating actions per 90min. Lassiter, meanwhile, has been moved back from the wing/forward into a deeper spot on the left. Although it is hard to call him a wing-back within Losada’s system, he is quickly learning his new role.

Defensive midfielders do not always find a place in high-intensity, high-pressure teams, but Victor Wanyama continues to prove himself indispensable for Montréal. He is that little bit of calm and composure amidst the chaos swirling around him.

2021 Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Camacho is a rock in the defensive line for Montréal. But more dangerously, he also has an incredible ability to find the line breaking pass out of the back that gets his team’s attack going. With one pass he can turn a game on its head.



Out: Bakaye Dibassy (thigh)

Ryen Jiba (knee)

Robin Lod (knee)

Mikael Marqués (shoulder)

Questionable: Kemar Lawrence (hamstring)


OUT: Samuel Piette (adductor)

Romell Quioto (hamstring)