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Montreal Ends Charlotte's Winning Streak at Home
CF Montreal bests Charlotte FC 0-2
All streaks must come to an end, and such was the fate of Charlotte FC’s home winning streak as they fell to CF Montreal on Saturday, 0-2. The loss means that Charlotte didn’t tie the record for consecutive wins by an MLS expansion team (five), but when I spoke with team captain Christian Fuchs last night after the game, he told me streaks and records are nice, but not the sort of thing the players are thinking about.
Montreal midfielder Đorđe Mihailović added his sixth goal of the campaign in the first half, while defender Alistair Johnston added his first goal this season in the second half. Charlotte had multiple opportunities, 15 shots, and 4 total shots on target, but couldn’t convert any of their chances. A frustrating thread throughout the match for Charlotte was their inability to catch or trap long passes; time and again Charlotte’s forwards exerted themselves to chase down passes to no avail.
By the final third of the game, a clearly frustrated Charlotte FC abandoned precision and technical play, while substitutes Kamil Jóźwiak and Jordy Alcivar drew yellow cards in the final minutes of regulation. It wasn’t a terrible match for Charlotte, but it was a solid win for a superior Montreal team.
Saturday was the first night the media was welcomed in the locker room after the game, and I was surprised I was the only English-language reporter who took Charlotte FC up on the offer. Fuchs was still out with an injury from last week’s victory over Inter Miami, so I also spoke with Uruguayan defender Guzmán Corujo.
Corujo picked up much of the defensive slack for the team, breaking up numerous Montreal attacks with his head and his boot. Via an interpreter, Corujo told me that there’s no additional pressure on him when Fuchs is on the bench; “You feel his absence, but there’s no pressure. He brings a lot to the team, but there’s no pressure at all.”
At the postgame press conference, Coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez gave glowing review of Corujo’s performance when I asked him about Guzmán. "He's a guy who holds the team [together]. For me it's really important for me to have defenders who hold the team [together]."
"He's going for big things ... He's knocking the door. He's 100% confident that he's able to compete on that level,” Ramírez said about Corujo’s potential to be a national team player and an international star. “He's a soldier, he's a warrior on the pitch. I would go to the end of the world with Guzmán.”
After the match, there were differing opinions about why Montreal won. Coach Ramírez respects Montreal’s play and I got the feeling over the past week that he wasn’t expecting a strong result tonight. When asked about the differences between the teams Saturday night, Ramírez thought there were too many to count.
On the other hand, midfielder Brandt Bronico thought chance played a bigger role. “I thought we had a lot of good moments, and soccer is just a game of moments. If Franco scores [off the rebound from Andre Shinyashiki’s shot], maybe it’s a different game,” said Bronico. "Anybody can beat anybody on any given day [in MLS] … we could have beaten Montreal today and the difference is they finished their chances and we didn’t.”
When I asked Brandt about Charlotte’s 4-1-3-2 formation, with Brandt as the stopper, he continued to believe the teams were evenly matched. “Montreal is a good team and they adjusted to our pressure early in the game. I don't think they were dominant." Many of the stats from the game support that assessment; Charlotte narrowly led Montreal on shots, shots on target, possession, and pass accuracy. So, with conflicting reports from the Coach and one of the pivotal players, I closed out the night by speaking with the player under the most pressure in a game like this, goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.
“I they were a better team tonight … First half, second half, we had some chances to [equalize]. They had the one great shot in the second half, they go up 2-0, then it was really difficult for us,” said Kahlina. He also noted that Charlotte’s attack needs to be better coordinated, and that the team needs to keep progressing so that when good teams play Charlotte later in the season, the opponents will see a difference as well.
“But tomorrow is a new day, new week.”