2022 MLS Playoffs Preview: Watch for CF Montreal

2022 MLS Playoffs Preview: Watch for CF Montreal

It’s about to get very serious in Major League Soccer with the playoffs set to begin this weekend.

Fourteen teams entered the field after a tough regular season, including CF Montreal, who returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2020.

Notable absentees this year are the New England Revolution and Colorado Rapids (the two best teams in MLS last season), the Seattle Sounders (who have never missed the playoffs before), and Toronto FC (who are in the league has the highest salary).

Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 MLS postseason.

Playoff format

The Eastern and Western Conference winners – Philadelphia Union (19-5-10) and LAFC (21-9-4) – have a first-round bye.

The first round consists of six matches with the winner advancing. All playoff games are single elimination rather than two-legged affairs. Here is the schedule for the first round:

Eastern Conference
Oct. 15, noon ET: FC Cincinnati (12-9-13) at New York Red Bulls (11-15-8)
October 16, 8:00 pm ET: Orlando City (14-14-6) at CF Montreal (20-9-5)
October 17, 7:00 pm ET: Inter Miami (14-14-6) at New York City FC (16-11-9)

Western Conference
Oct. 15, 3:00 p.m. ET: Nashville SC (13-10-11) at LA Galaxy (14-12-8)
Oct. 16, 3:00 p.m. ET: Real Salt Lake (12-11-11) at Austin FC (16-10-8)
October 17, 9:30 pm ET: Minnesota United (14-14-6) at FC Dallas (14-9-11)

The second round will see the winner of the New York Red Bulls-Cincinnati series host Philadelphia on October 20, while the winner of the LA Galaxy-Nashville series travels to LAFC on the same day.

The conference finals are scheduled for October 30. The MLS Cup will be hosted by the best remaining seeded team on November 5. As the regular season champions, LAFC has home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

CF Montreal has Canadian ambitions

Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps failed to make the playoffs, meaning CF Montreal will serve as Canada’s lone representative in this year’s postseason.

It’s been a remarkable campaign for Montreal after they finished 10th in the Eastern Conference in 2021. Led by Player of the Year candidate Wilfred Nancy, Montreal pushed the Philadelphia Union for first place in the East until the final day of the season, only to fall. Two points back.

With 63 goals, Montreal had the third-best attack in the East thanks to Honduran forward Romel Quito’s 15 goals, as well as veteran striker Kay Kumar and U.S. international George Mihajlovic (nine each goals).

Montreal has been one of the best teams in the league since July 17, winning 11 of 15 games with just one loss. The campaign ended with a four game winning streak and a six game unbeaten run. But the club’s exploits have largely gone unnoticed by the MLS media. Despite the lack of respect, defender Alastair Johnston insists Montreal is comfortable being the team few pundits are talking about.

“Being in the Canadian market you’re always at a disadvantage. The MLS media generally overlooks you, especially if you’re not in Toronto. If you’re not playing for TFC, you’re pretty much overlooked. Get dumped,” Johnston told SportsNet.

“But at the same time, we’re not one of those teams that really needs these accolades to know that we’re doing something special… We’re perfectly fine being the ones that go under the radar because a lot of Sometimes you see that in the playoffs. A team that a lot of people aren’t talking about makes a run, and you want to be a dark horse.

Orlando lost 2-0 at home to Montreal in the season opener for both clubs on February 27, but Montreal avenged the Lions’ victory at Stade Saputo on May 7 with a comprehensive 4-1 victory. .

“Orlando has some dangerous players. It’s a team that consistently wins in the playoffs, they’ve already won the US Open this year so they have that confidence. It’s a pretty experienced-heavy group that plays a lot. have experience and we know it won’t be easy. It will be a tough challenge for us, but it’s great that we’re playing this game at home, and I think that will play a big part,” said Johnston. .

Johnston: There is no better way to prepare for the World Cup

Johnston is one of three CF Montreal players — midfielder Samuel Payet and defender Kamal Miller are the others — who are certain to be named to Canada’s World Cup roster next month, while Ismail Kony also has a good chance of making the cut. .

Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps’ failure to make the playoffs means Canadian internationals Richie Laria, Jonathan Osorio, Marc-Anthony Kaye, Donnel Henry and Lucas Cavalli may not be going to the World Cup as they should.

There’s no doubt that Canadian coach John Herdman is hoping Montreal can make a long playoff run, thus ensuring Johnston and his MLS teammates will be in top shape for Qatar.

“There is no better way to prepare for the World Cup than to play in the most competitive games. There is no substitute for match fitness. In the context of CF Montreal and Team Canada, the intensity of the game is great for us. So it’s a win all around,” Johnston said.

Notable Canadians on other teams

Taking CF Montreal out of the picture, this year’s games have a lot of Canadian content, with two members of the men’s national team prominently featured in American clubs.

Maxime Crépeau (LAFC) and Dayne St. Clair (Minnesota) are considered two of the best goalkeepers in MLS.

Crepio, 28, of Greenfield Park, Que. from, was fifth in the league with clean sheets (nine) and started 33 of 34 games this year, starring in LAFC’s Supporters’ Shield win, which goes to The team with the best record in the regular season. St. Clair, 25, of Pickering, Ont., was a workhorse for Minnesota, starting 32 games and recording five shutouts.

Spotted by Toronto FC for much of this season, Kentville, NS native Jacob Scheffleberg has thrived since his loan move to Nashville SC in August, scoring two goals in eight games. Calgary-born forward Tisho Akindele has scored three goals in four starts for Orlando City in 2022.

But the Canadian to watch might just be fullback Raheem Edwards. The 27-year-old from Toronto was a breakout player in his first season with the LA Galaxy, scoring one goal and providing six assists in 30 games.

LAFC and Philly are favorites, but don’t sleep on FC Dallas

All eyes will be on the Philadelphia Union and LAFC, as the Eastern and Western Conference winners will be considered the top two favorites in the playoffs. But don’t sleep on FC Dallas.

Dallas finished third in the West, but had the second-best defensive record in MLS with just 37 goals against in 34 games. Dutch goalkeeper Martin Paes has posted eight shutouts in 32 starts in his first MLS season, playing behind a team that has been noted for playing error-free football inside the middle for much of the campaign.

Coach Nico Estevez’s deliberate system means Dallas routinely controls not only the pace of play, but where the action will unfold on the pitch.

Guzdag have been hot at home with 10 goals (including two hat-tricks) in their last eight games. His hat trick and assist in a 4–0 home win over Toronto FC on the final day of the season helped Philadelphia clinch first place in the Eastern Conference. After finishing as a finalist for the league’s MVP award, the Guzdag have extra motivation to go on a tear in the playoffs.

Player to watch: Philadelphia’s Daniel Gazdag

After a mediocre first season in MLS in 2021, forward Daniel Guzdag broke out in a big way this year. The Hungary international scored 22 goals (tied for second overall in MLS) and added 10 assists for the Union.

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found over here.

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