Home field advantage is CF Montreal's next goal as the playoffs near

Home field advantage is CF Montreal’s next goal as the playoffs near

MONTREAL – With a spot in the post-season assured and four games remaining, CF Montreal is focused on securing home field advantage in the first round of MLS Cup playoffs.

Montreal (16-9-5) reached the semifinals for the first time in 2016 with Zachary Brault-Gaillard’s dramatic equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time in a 2-2 draw with Columbus on Friday. Secured a playoff appearance. The club enters Tuesday’s game against the visiting Chicago Fire in second place in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of the New York Red Bulls with a game in hand.

First-place Philadelphia (18-4-9) is 10 points ahead of Montreal and will likely earn a conference bye into the second round. The other teams that finish in the top four will host their first-round opponents.

“We accomplished the first goal, so now we have to push for the top four and stay in the top two,” said head coach Wilfried Nancy. “We wanted to challenge Philadelphia but it seems they are out of reach. Apart from that we just have to focus on maintaining our strong form and go on to play our best football.

Montreal has had anything but easy games during the postseason, and Chicago will provide more of the same.

The Fire (9-13-8) are looking out of the playoff race and have struggled of late – winning just one of their last six games.

But they are starting to find success on the road, picking up eight points from their last five away games. Montreal could find a tricky opponent on Tuesday as its home form has dipped recently.

There are still only eight points separating fifth and 13th in the Eastern Conference, and the final standings likely won’t be settled until the end of the regular season, leaving the East open to all kinds of possibilities and matchups.

“It’s important to show passion (in these last few games) and be ready for the playoffs and the last few games of the season,” Montreal defenseman Kamal Miller said. “Whoever we face will be a strong team. Each team has presented different challenges this season and brought us different styles.

Montreal enters Tuesday’s 11-point lead over fifth-place Orlando but needs four points to seal a top-four spot and can’t click against the Fire.

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