Janio Bikel - vs. Montreal Impact - 2020

Know thy enemy: ‘Caps set to face new-look Canadian rivals

This Saturday, Vancouver Whitecaps FC welcome Canadian rivals CF Montreal to Rio Tinto Stadium in their third “home” match of the season.

In this edition of “Know thy enemy”, we breakdown three things you need to know about this new-look Montreal side.

ONE TO WATCH

There’s been plenty of turnover and new acquisitions for Montreal during the offseason, with new head coach Wilfred Nancy, many young prospects and MLS talent all entering the fold for the Quebecois side.

But perhaps the most important addition for Montreal has been US international Djordje Mihailovic.

The former Chicago Fire homegrown scored in his debut match against Toronto FC but has also added a creative, attacking bite in Montreal’s defensive 3-5-2 formation. Amongst Montreal starters, Mihailovic is tied for second in the team for key passes (1.3) and also has the most average shots per game for the club (2.7).

The 22-year-old’s most productive MLS season came last year, as he tallied two goals and seven assists for the Fire in 20 appearances

With Montreal’s dynamic options on the attack both out wide and up top, expect Mihailovic to be given a free role on the offensive, roaming wherever he wants in order to help his side create chances and help dictate possession in the final third.

TRANSITION GAME

As mentioned before, Montreal’s 3-5-2 formation has given Wilfred Nancy’s side plenty of defensive stability at the back, which showed in last week’s 0-0 draw against last year’s MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew.

With new additions on the backline in Canadian international Kamal Miller and former Houston Dynamo man Aljaz Struna along with Premier League veteran Victor Wanyama holding up the midfield in front of the back three, CF Montreal like to make their lines tight to prevent teams from playing around them at the top of the box, which in turn leads to plenty of counter-attacking opportunities.

Wingbacks Zachary Brault Guillard and Mustapha Kizza have been a big part of exactly that.

Given the pair have great defensive abilities, they’re able to drop with the three centre-backs to form a five-man backline for Montreal, but once the team wins possession, both start to run down the wing to show support on the counter.

They’ve also been able to turn those opportunities into some decent end product, with Brault Guillard already registering a goal plus a team-leading two assists to his name and Kizza tallying an assist from the other flank.

Not to mention they’re supplying a strike partnership of pacey Honduran Romell Quioto and US youth international Mason Toye, who have combined for three goals and an assist so far.

The ‘Caps will need to be wary of Montreal’s transition game in order to secure their second win of this young MLS season.

FAMILIAR FACE

This weekend will see yet another former player take the field against the Blue and White.

After spending two seasons with Western Conference side Sporting KC, ‘Caps 2013 SuperDraft pick Erik Hurtado was acquired by Montreal over the offseason to help bolster their goalscoring ranks.

The Beaverton, Oregon striker scored 12 goals in 105 appearances across all competitions for the ‘Caps in six seasons, including a delightful volley in 2017 against Sporting to help the Blue and White clinch a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Hurtado made his first start last week for Montreal against the Crew and could possibly start again on Saturday depending on the fitness of fellow striker Mason Toye.

Catch the match live this Saturday, May 8 on CTV, TSN1/4 and AM730.