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Mar 29, 2024 10:29 pm

D.C. United, CF Montreal off to promising starts

Matias Coccaro

D.C. United will host CF Montreal on Saturday night in a match between teams that so far look like they could be among the Eastern Conference’s most improved sides in 2024 with both teams’ first year under new managers.

Laurent Courtois’ Montreal (2-1-1, 7 points) has started promisingly despite facing a six-match road trip to open the season while awaiting a more hospitable Quebec climate.

And Montreal is probably unlucky not to be unbeaten after giving back a two-goal lead in a wild 4-3 defeat at the Chicago Fire two weekends ago.

Matias Coccaro scored twice from the penalty spot to take his team-leading total to three goals. Montreal still led 3-1 when a red card to fullback Raheem Edwards reduced the visitors to 10 men on a foul in the box, resulting in Brian Gutierrez’s penalty kick.

Hugo Cuypers leveled the match in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time, and Kellyn Acosta won it for the Fire in the ninth when he struck what was clearly intended as an early cross, only for a gust of wind to blow the ball over stranded goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois.

“We were really unlucky,” said Montreal attacker Jules-Anthony Vilsaint, who like his teammates has had an extra week to process the loss after last week’s bye. “After that, it’s something that we have to bounce back from very quickly.”

Christian Benteke scored his team-leading fourth goal and helped set up another in D.C.’s 2-2 draw at St. Louis City SC on March 23.

But a second-half penalty converted by Joao Klauss prevented the Black-and-Red (1-1-3, 6 points) from a victory. And they were probably content to accept the tie after the hosts looked more threatening late.

In St. Louis, D.C. faced a team with a pressing-oriented style similar to its own. Montreal will present the opposite challenge — a team content to sit in a low block without the ball and build attacks slowly when in possession of it.

“I talk a lot about trying to create an identity here, and you can see very clearly that they have a strong identity, a clear way of playing,” D.C. coach Troy Lesesne said of Montreal. “So I have a lot of respect for that because that’s not easy to do.”

–Field Level Media

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