The red-hot CF Montreal team comes to Cincinnati midweek looking to end FC Cincinnati’s unbeaten home record. After an abysmal start that had many experts picking them to win the spoon, they have won four straight matches by a combined score of 8-0. Their manager, Hernán Losada, is a bit of a tinkerer which makes scouting them based on formation or personnel a bit tricky. His general setup has been consistent: three center backs, two wingbacks and a tight midfield block. However, he runs both a 3-4-2-1 with pocket wingers and a 3-4-1-2 with two out-and-out strikers … often changing mid-match. However, even within these variations, there are some consistent styles of play that CF Montreal employs.
Let’s look at what those styles of play are and what personnel are key to making them work.
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Team: CF Montreal
Matches Scouted: 5/6/23 vs. Orlando City; 5/13/23 at Toronto FC
Formation: 3-4-2-1; 3-4-1-2
Mode of Attack
CF Montreal like to play a good mix of long balls and building from the back. When they play long, they generally have three targets. They either play direct into their big central striker, Chinonso Offor, who looks to knock the ball down to a midfielder, they play direct into the feet of Romell Quioto who looks to hold up play or they look for long diagonals to their wingbacks getting forward.
When they build from the back, they often start VERY deep. They are the kind of team that plays the goal kick to their center back standing in the six-yard box. Then, Victor Wanyama sits centrally and tries to find space to act as a pivot while their other players try to find space to check into. Mathieu Choiniere, Bryce Duke and Sean Rea are positionally fluid, checking into central areas. When they successfully find space, it is usually a center back that is splitting lines to them, utilizing them as targets. This means they don’t usually look to get on the half-turn or progress the ball from there. Instead, they look to immediately play underneath and then combine to get the ball wide. This is what we would call an in-out-wide pattern.
Method of Chance Creation
CF Montreal will capitalize on bad turnovers in the midfield turning into runouts and breakaways. Players like Quioto, Lassi Lappealainen, Ariel Lassiter and Aaron Herrera are very quick and will burst forward when they can. However, most of Monteal’s chances comes from wide positions as shown in the attacking charts below for the matches vs. Orlando and Kansas City (there was an early red card against Toronto which skewed some of this data).
At their most basic, they use Wanyama as a pivot to quickly switch the ball, get one of their wingbacks isolated 1v1 and try to create crosses. However, it is not always this simple. Oftentimes, when they are playing with pocket wingers, those players will make wide runs to create momentary overloads. Through quick play, often this will allow one of the wingbacks to make underlapping runs into the corners of the box allowing great opportunities for cutbacks to late-arriving midfielders.
Mode of Defense
CF Montreal goes through periods of the match where they press fairly high. This seems to be more of an ebb and flow than pressing off of any certain cue. Simply put, they will press like crazy for five to 10 minutes, then drop into a mid to low block for five to 10 minutes. When they are in their block defense, they are very narrow. When playing in a 3-4-2-1 this is natural due to the two attacking midfielders sitting in front of the two defensive midfielders. When they are playing 3-4-1-2 they typically invert their midfield triangle, making their defensive set look like a 3-3-2-2 with a lone defensive midfielder.
In either formation, their central midfielders press high onto the opponent’s midfielders, daring teams to break and bypass lines. If the opponent can do this successfully there is often quite a bit of space between their midfield and defensive lines.
Mode of Transition
CF Montreal only transitions quickly off of turnovers that get them running toward goal by virtue of where and when they happen. Outside of these, they usually look to keep possession first. However, they will occasionally look to flip the field by using a long ball to one of their forwards.
Defensively, as mentioned above, they either drop deep and compact or high press depending on the moment of the game.
- Rudy Camacho is a legit passer out of central defense. He can break lines and start attacks.
- Their central defenders are adept at carrying the ball forward to start attacks.
- Their wingbacks are very good at creating chances. They don’t have a ton of “accurate crosses,” but instead get the ball into the box and let defenses scramble.
- Their central forward, Offor, is a battler. He is strong and attacks the ball with ferocity.
- They are weak defensively on the outside. They are so aggressive going forward with their wingbacks that there is typically a ton of space to attack into on the flanks.
- Their goalkeeper, Jonathan Sirois, is very aggressive coming out on crosses and doesn’t always get to the ball. He is also good for a bad turnover or two each match trying to build out of the back.
- Their main central threat is Choiniere … a useful player but not really a string-puller or creator. If they can’t create from the flanks, chances are difficult for them to come by.
- They favor building from the back but are not always adept at doing so. They have a high volume of turnovers in their defensive third that lead to chances for the opposition.