CF Montreal suffers 3-1 loss to defending champ New York City FC in MLS Cup playoffs

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MONTREAL - Defending MLS Cup champion New York City FC used experience and pressure to keep their run at another title alive.

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MONTREAL – Defending MLS Cup champion New York City FC used experience and pressure to keep their run at another title alive.

NYCFC built off its early momentum to halt CF Montreal’s playoff run with a 3-1 win in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday. Maximiliano Moralez, Héber and Talles Magno all scored for the visitors, who took a 3-0 lead before the home team could get on the board.

Djordje Mihailovic scored the lone goal for Montreal.

Teammates pile up on New York City midfielder Maximiliano Moralez following his goal against CF Montreal during first half Eastern Conference semifinals MLS action in Montreal on Sunday, October 23, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Montreal got off to a nervy start, unable to keep onto the ball for more than a few passes at a time. That would prove costly as Moralez found himself alone in front of an open net after a series of defensive mistakes, putting the visitors up just six minutes in.

“They put a lot of pressure, but what I like was the attitude of the players. Yes, we conceded a goal, but we came back and attacked the box,” said Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy. “Their goalkeeper made a lot of these saves, but we have to make these kinds of moments count.”

The mistake appeared to wake Montreal up as the home side began to dominate the ball. Their first chance came just five minutes after conceding when Alistair Johnston found Kai Kamara’s head in the box, forcing a great reaction save from New York goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

“Teams like this turn half-chances into goals and that’s exactly what they did,” said Johnston. “Small mistakes that we kind of let snowball and when you play against good teams with top players, they punish us.”

Johnston and Kamara would later connect again, with Kamara hitting the post as the home side’s pressure on New York’s back line continued to build.

Shortly after the 30-minute mark, Johnson was once again called to bail out the NYCFC defence when Ismaël Koné got on the end of a cross, prompting another incredible save.

As Montreal continued to press, New York found openings to counter just as the first half was ending. After winning possession in his own half, Santiago Rodriguez spotted Héber’s late run to double their lead in stoppage time.

“We can obviously do better in these situations, but I never look at individuals when we concede. It’s always done as a unit,” said Nancy. “We played good for the massive majority of the game and that’s what needs to be focused on after games like this.”

The second half saw both teams maintaining their style of play, with Montreal dominating possession for long stretches of time and New York sitting deep and absorbing pressure.

“Scoring then parking the bus is something a lot of teams have done against us so it’s not anything we weren’t used to,” said Montreal midfielder Samuel Piette. “It was a bit tougher to break down that barrier they built, but we created chances and the ball just didn’t want to go in at the end of the day.”

Once again, NYCFC would strike on the counterattack, drawing a penalty after Montreal goalkeeper James Pantemis took down Gabriel Pereira in the penalty area. Magno, who entered the match in the 58th minute, stepped up and extended the lead to 3-0 just three minutes later.

Montreal pulled one back through Mihailovic in the 85th minute — his last goal in front of the Stade Saputo crowd before he leaves for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the winter.

New York will now begin preparations for the Eastern Conference Final on Oct. 30 at Subaru Park in Philadelphia to face the Union.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2022.

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