MLS

Montreal boss Courtois encouraged by progress, but still envies Messi and Miami

By Sports Desk May 09, 2024

CF Montreal coach Laurent Courtois has been delighted by the way his players have adapted to his methods this season, though he joked he would still swap any of them for Lionel Messi ahead of Saturday's clash with Inter Miami.

Montreal sit 11th in the Eastern Conference standings with 12 points from their first 10 league games under Courtois, 12 adrift of early pacesetters Miami. 

However, plenty of outside factors have impacted their start to the season, not least the fact they have played eight of their matches – including each of their first six – on the road.

Courtois is proud of the way his players have learned on the job, though he still believes there is more to come from them. 

"I keep telling them that I have no in-between. I'm either going to be your biggest fan, or really tough and really demanding. Because we don't have time to play. We don't have time to lose," he said.

"At the same time, I'm such a fan of what they've been doing, accepting the stuff that I've been asking them to do, while being on the road for three months. 

"I think they want to play soccer in the right way. I have a few codes that I think can be helpful. 

"We need together to come up with common ground to execute in this way. They're still far from what I think they can do."

However, Courtois does see one area for improvement ahead of Saturday's clash with the Herons, quipping: "I wouldn't change any of my players for any others – except Messi."

Miami trounced the New York Red Bulls 6-2 last week, with Messi scoring once and laying on five assists in an incredible performance. 

That display left coach Gerardo Martino in disbelief, as he said: "I always say this, and it's redundant at this point, but he always does something new. 

"To have an involvement in all six goals of a team's goals in a 6-2 is something that will be difficult to see again."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

CF Montreal – Jonathan Sirois

Last week's 4-1 defeat at Nashville SC was the seventh time Montreal have conceded four or more goals in a regular-season MLS game since the start of 2023, more than any other team.

Only two MLS goalkeepers have faced more shots than Sirois (55) in 2024, though he has conceded 2.1 goals fewer than Opta's expected goals on target (xGoT) model suggests he should have. He will need a big performance against Messi and company.

Inter Miami – Lionel Messi

Messi has 10 goals and 12 assists in eight league matches this season. No player in MLS history had reached 10 goals and 10 assists in fewer than 16 appearances in a season before.

The Argentine has also reached 25 goal contributions in 14 MLS matches overall, seven fewer than any other player in MLS history required to bring up that figure.

MATCH PREDICTION – CF MONTREAL WIN

Montreal have won six of their nine all-time meetings with Miami (one draw, two defeats), including a 3-2 victory over the Herons on March 10. 

Only New York City FC (2.22) and the Chicago Fire (2.17) average more points per match against Miami than Montreal (2.11) among teams the Herons have faced five or more times.

While Montreal are winless in their last three league games, the last two of those were played on the road.

On home soil, they are a different proposition, going unbeaten through their last six games (two wins, four draws), including a win and a draw in their first two home matches of 2024. They have only lost three of their last 17 regular-season home games dating back to last April (10 wins, four draws).

Miami, despite their star quality, have been vulnerable this campaign, trailing in nine MLS games – a joint-high alongside the San Jose Earthquakes. They cannot keep relying on rescue acts.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

CF Montreal – 47.2%

Inter Miami – 25.7%

Draw – 27.1%

Related items

  • FC Cincinnati v New England Revolution: Noonan focusing on defensive improvements FC Cincinnati v New England Revolution: Noonan focusing on defensive improvements

    Pat Noonan insists FC Cincinnati must improve defensively ahead of welcoming the New England Revolution to the TQL Stadium on Sunday. 

    Cincinnati edged a seven-goal thriller in their latest MLS fixture against the Philadelphia Union, with Luciano Acosta scoring in the 10th minute of injury time to secure a 4-3 win. 

    Noonan's side have now won nine of their last 10 league games and sit second in the Eastern Conference, two points behind Inter Miami. 

    But there were some concerns at the back, with Cincinnati having now conceded eight goals in their last four games, something Noonan is keen on addressing. 

    “Certainly, how we have gotten results has shifted to scoring goals and struggling defensively from an early stretch when defensively we were much stronger and didn’t need four goals to win a game,” Noonan said.

    “We gave another set-piece goal which has been a little bit of a theme. Against Philadelphia, it was defending crosses.

    “We will continue to look at the best combination of guys to help us from the frontline to the backline to be better defensively because I think right now, with how we are creating chances, that hasn’t been a concern. But we need to get better defensively.”

    Meanwhile, New England continued their impressive recent form with a 3-2 win over Vancouver Whitecaps last Sunday and have now won three in a row. 

    The Revolution have closed the gap at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and are now two points behind Orlando City and the Chicago Fire. 

    Head coach Caleb Porter was pleased with his side's reaction to conceding late in their latest fixture and believes the mentality within his squad has significantly shifted. 

    “We have still got to score more though,” Porter said. “But I loved that we scored three goals and I loved that we responded after conceding to take the game to 1-1.

    “That shows mentality is changing. I also loved that the guys were a little ticked off at the end of the game. We have won three in a row, and they were kind of mad that they didn’t score more and they conceded.

    “That’s a great mentality to have. We’re not relieved to win; we’re expecting to win now. If we play like we did against Vancouver, we can beat anybody in this league.”

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta

    The Argentine took his assist tally to 13 in MLS this season during Cincinnati's win over Philadelphia, more than any other player in the division this season. 

    Acosta has now assisted 92 goals since arriving at Cincinnati in 2021, moving up to ninth in the all-time assist charts in MLS. 

    New England – Giacomo Vrioni

    The Albanian scored his second goal in three games during New England's victory over Vancouver, taking his tally to 16 for the club since arriving in 2022.

    Of his 10 goals scored in the MLS, Vrioni has scored against just seven sides, with Cincinnati being one of those. 

    MATCH PREDICTION: CINCINNATI WIN

    The Revs should enter this game in high spirits, having won three straight matches after only collecting seven points from their first 13 games in MLS this year. 

    Their last four-game winning streak came in August 2021, and the fourth win in that run came against Cincinnati.

    A repeat is not expected here, though, with Cincinnati winning nine of their last 10 matches (one defeat). No team in the post-shootout era has ever won 10 games in a span of 11 regular-season outings before. 

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Cincinnati – 64.6%

    Draw – 18.9%

    New England – 16.4%

  • Portland Timbers v Vancouver Whitecaps: Neville aiming to raise the level back on home soil Portland Timbers v Vancouver Whitecaps: Neville aiming to raise the level back on home soil

    Portland Timbers head coach Phil Neville has urged his players to raise their performance levels against the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS on Saturday.

    Portland are currently on a five-match unbeaten streak in the competition and made a winning return from their mid-season break by beating the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on Wednesday.

    They sit seventh in a tightly contested Western Conference, and Neville admits they need to improve if they want to keep their current form going.

    "Even though we got the win against San Jose, the performance was nowhere near good enough," Neville said. "We had 10 days off, and I hope that kind of performance is out of the way.

    "Saturday's a big game against Vancouver, and we can't play to that level. We have to keep raising the level. We need to keep pushing and stay in the pack by winning games.

    "We're developing a mentality of not accepting defeat, making people accountable for what they're doing, and guys are stepping up."

    Meanwhile, Vancouver sit one place and one point above Portland but suffered a disappointing 3-2 defeat to the New England Revolution last weekend.

    Having won back-to-back games by 2-1 scorelines before that loss, head coach Vanni Sartini is hopeful his side can make some big improvements ahead of this week's Cascadia derby.

    "The challenge is to play better than we did in the last game," he said. "Offensively, we will need to do a lot of things that we normally do well, creating chances and getting men in the box.

    "I didn't like the performance of last week, so this week we're focusing on the things that we can do better."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Portland Timbers – Jonathan Rodriguez

    While Evanilson is a constant threat for Portland (and their joint-top scorer of the season with eight goals), Rodriguez is close to equalling his tally.

    He scored the winner against San Jose on Wednesday, netting his seventh goal of the campaign.

    Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

    Gauld was a bright spark for Vancouver in their disappointing defeat to New England last weekend, scoring both goals.

    He was clinical; despite amassing an xG of just 0.09, he had the joint-most shots (three), scoring with both of his attempts on target and also creating three chances.

    MATCH PREDICTION: PORTLAND TIMBERS WIN

    The Whitecaps are unbeaten in their last five Cascadia rivalry matches against Portland and the Seattle Sounders (three wins, two draws), their longest such run since a seven-match streak between 2013 and 2014.

    They have also won their last two games against the Timbers, recording 3-2 victories both home and away in August 2023 and March 2024.

    However, Portland are in great shape, going unbeaten through their last five matches (three wins, two draws), and netting multiple goals in 13 different MLS games this year. Only Inter Miami, with 14, have recorded more such matches.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Portland Timbers – 43.6%

    Draw – 23.8%

    Vancouver Whitecaps – 29.6%

  • Euro 2024 data dive: Pedri matches Ronaldo feat, Hjulmand stunner denies England Euro 2024 data dive: Pedri matches Ronaldo feat, Hjulmand stunner denies England

    Thursday's action at Euro 2024 brought our first group winners in Spain, and plenty of frustration for England.

    Before La Roja clinched top spot in Group B by overcoming Italy, the Three Lions were pegged back in a 1-1 draw with Denmark, who were arguably unfortunate not to win the game. 

    Despite an underwhelming performance, Gareth Southgate's team remain in control of Group C with four points, after Slovenia and Serbia drew 1-1 earlier in the day.

    Here, we round up the standout stats from Thursday's action.

    Slovenia 1-1 Serbia: Jovic rescues last-gasp draw

    The early kick-off delivered yet another late twist as Slovenia were denied a landmark victory at the European Championships with the last kick of the game in Munich. 

    Having seen efforts by Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic repelled by the imperious figure of Jan Oblak, Serbia found themselves behind as Zan Karnicnik's goal put Slovenia on the cusp of their first-ever win at the Euros. 

    However, Luka Jovic had other ideas. The Milan striker rose the highest from another Serbia corner, heading the ball beyond Oblak to score the latest result-altering goal in a Euros match of all-time (excluding extra time), with his equaliser timed at exactly 95 minutes. 

    The result keeps both side's chances of making the last 16 of the competition alive, but for Slovenia, it could have been a memorable day in Munich. 

    Matjaz Kek's side remain winless at the Euros from their five matches (four draws, one loss). Karnicnik's opener was just the second time they had gone ahead in a game at the competition; the last time they did so was during a 3-3 draw with Yugoslavia at Euro 2000. 

    But for all of Serbia's attacking intent, their lack of clinical edge in the final third proved costly despite their late goal. Just four of their 15 shots were on target, with talisman Mitrovic having an afternoon to forget. 

    With his six shots in the match, Mitrovic had the most of any player in a single game at Euro 2024.

    With the Al-Hilal striker having failed to find the back of the net, it means the last four players to have more than six shots at a European Championships have not scored - the other three coming at Euro 2020. 

    Denmark 1-1 England: Scrutiny piles on Southgate

    While the other game in Group C finished with the same scoreline, the encounter will not be remembered in a hurry, in particular for England fans. 

    Harry Kane opened the scoring in Frankfurt. His opener was his fifth goal at the Euros, becoming the first England player and eighth player overall to score five or more goals at both the men's World Cup and European Championships.

    He also became the third man to score at four different major international tournaments for England, along with Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.

    But Morten Hjulmand equalised with what was his first goal for Denmark in all competitions (in his ninth appearance). It was also Denmark's ninth goal from outside the box at the European Championship, with only three teams netting more on record (since 1980 – Germany 15, Netherlands 12, France 11).

     

    Denmark's leveller was the eighth goal England have conceded from outside the box at the Euros. No side has conceded more on record in the history of the competition (since 1980, Portugal are level with the Three Lions).

    There have been 13 goals scored from outside the box at Euro 2024, already more than there were in the entire group stages of Euro 2020 (12).

    England have now won just two of their last eight competitive meetings with Denmark (four draws, two losses), having won each of their first four such games against them.

    Spain 1-0 Italy: Pedri matches Ronaldo feat, unwanted history for Cristante

    In the final game of the day, Spain produced another dominant performance to clinch top spot in Group B with a 1-0 win over defending champions Italy.

    Riccardo Calafiori's second-half own goal made the difference, the defender becoming the first Azzurri player to ever put through his own net in a European Championship match.

    He is also just the second Italian to score an own goal at a major tournament (World Cup/Euros) overall, after Cristian Zaccardo versus the United States at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which Italy won on German soil.

    If they are to lift more silverware in Berlin next month, they will need a dramatic improvement, having attempted just four shots in a tame performance on Thursday – their fewest on record (since 1980) in any match at the Euros.

    Spain, on the other hand, look like genuine contenders after following up their 3-0 thrashing of Croatia with another deserved victory. They have won their first two games of a European Championship tournament to nil for just the second time, previously doing so in 2016 (1-0 versus Czechia, 3-0 against Turkiye).

    Fabian Ruiz produced an energetic performance in the heart of La Roja's midfield, winning possession in the final third on six occasions, the most by any player in a Euros match since David Silva in a 2008 quarter-final between Spain and Italy (also six).

    Team-mate Pedri, meanwhile, kept things ticking over on his 12th major tournament appearance for Spain (World Cup/Euros). 

    That is the joint-most by any European player while aged 21 or younger, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, who played 12 times for Portugal at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.

    There was a piece of unwanted history for an Italy midfielder, though, as Bryan Cristante received a yellow card just 20 seconds after coming off the bench at the start of the second half, the quickest booking for a substitute on record at the Euros (since 1980).

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.