CF Montreal wins Atlanta the hard way

Miller, with impressive footwork on the right side in the 82nd minute, could have been the name Kamaldinho written on the back of his shirt that he would not have been spoken to. Joaquin Torres found his pass, who neatly referred him to the visitors’ cage.

Wilfried Nancy, a good son of France, wished Miller did not think he had become Zinedine Zidane. Djordje Mihailovic, after joking that he about time Kamal put it in, compared him to Messi. Whichever legend they choose, both had good words for the Montreal defender, whose performance gives his team three points from the East lead for the time being.

I want to say that he played even better games because today the difference is that he was decisive and that he thought he was a striker, the head coach underlined at a press conference. Defensively he was strong, but on certain balls he could have done better. He knows I ask a lot of him. But I’m very happy for him because between the coaches we talk a lot about his big room for improvement.

If it’s consistent, it can be of a very high standard.

A quote from Wilfried Nancy on Kamal Miller

Miller, for his part, remained a little incredulous.

I don’t know exactly what happened, he admitted. I just wanted to cause something. I wanted to put the ball in the penalty area because I knew the set pieces and crosses were making it difficult for them. I’m lucky Joaquin was there.

As in their first game of the season at Stade Saputo, the Montrealers were quick to open the scoring. From the fourth minute, Miller hit the goal with a resounding header after a free kick by Djordje Mihailovic.

You would think that, like the Canadian the day before, CF Montreal would want to score ten goals for Guy Lafleur, whom we had greeted with a moment of impeccable silence and to whom we would pay tribute in the 10th minute with blue and white -red smoke. (And we’ll be sure to point out, as a fellow fox noted, that the winning scorer wears the number 10.)

Rather, it was the visitors who, like the Blonde Demon of yore, made inspired climbs and threatened Sebastian Breza’s net. As if the Montreal midfielder couldn’t understand each other, boulevards opened up for especially designated player Thiago Almada, whose long shot went just wide in the 19th minute.

The boys have found a way to win, Nancy said. Football is sometimes irrational. It worked in our favor today. The boys have found their way. I was happy for them, really happy. Despite the absences, we played against a team with quality. I am very proud of the boys.

However, irrationality makes it easy when you look at the advanced statistics. According to MLS’s expected goals model, CF Montreal’s attempts came in at a combined 1.9 goals, compared to just 0.7 for Atlanta’s, indicating that the defenders did a good job. Another model, that of American Soccer Analysis, even gives a value of 2.4 goals to Montreal shots.

Nevertheless, Montrealers have had to defend themselves for a long time. But they got there.

Two locals were booked in the first half, Rudy Camacho and Victor Wanyama – the latter will miss the Orlando visit next Saturday. Each time, the ensuing free kick resulted in Breza’s life-saving dives, first to the left to fend off Almada’s attempt and then to frustrate Marcelino Moreno whose shot came dangerously close to the top corner.

Like the hosts in the first half, Atlanta struck early in the second act. A pair of hooks into the corner of the penalty area and Marcelino Moreno managed to fire a shot that struck the post to Breza’s right despite his dive, before rolling into the other side net and leveling the score.

Atlanta, like us, is a good possession team that wants to win, Miller said. We knew they would often get the ball. Of course we didn’t want them to have it so often, especially in our house. But in the first half we struggled to find the rhythm. They rushed us a lot.

Less than four minutes had passed since the Atlanta goal that gave the Montrealers the lead. A corner nearly went over the line from goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, but Andrew Gutman made a last-minute escape.

The match between Montreal midfielders was already difficult in terms of play, but became even more complicated in discipline midway through the second half. Also, Ismaël Koné was cautioned which resulted in him being banned from Orlando, as was Wanyama. Samuel Piette replaced Koné minutes later and the Quebecer will likely be part of the solution next Saturday.

Entrepreneurial before Miller’s goal, the visitors tried everything they could to equalize late in the game, as they had in Atlanta against Montreal last March. But another intervention by Breza in the 90th minute allowed the stadium to breathe and celebrate a bit, minutes later three points won the hard way.

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