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CF Montreal snaps goalscoring drought, beats Charlotte FC 2-0

MONTREAL — CF Montreal's scoring drought was so long, spectators sitting behind the net brought giant arrows to point toward the goal on Saturday night. The squad on the field got the message loud and clear.
CF Montreal's Chinonso Offor (9) shoots and scores against Charlotte FC goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina during first half MLS soccer action in Montreal, Saturday, July 15, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — CF Montreal's scoring drought was so long, spectators sitting behind the net brought giant arrows to point toward the goal on Saturday night.

The squad on the field got the message loud and clear.

Striker Kwadwo Opoku scored his first goal for his new club and, in the process, snapped a four-game shutout streak as Montreal beat Charlotte FC 2-0.

Opoku’s goal in the 27th minute was Montreal's first in 451 minutes, bringing a relieved Stade Saputo crowd to its feet after having little to cheer for recently during the Major League Soccer club’s goalscoring woes.

Chinonso Offor added to the lead two minutes later and the home side never looked back.

"I'm not gonna lie, at some point I saw … the signs with the arrows pointing at the goal. I mean, they're not wrong, that's brutally honest," said Montreal captain Samuel Piette. "To score two goals back to back in the full stadium, it was special."

Head coach Hernan Losada was glad his team made those arrows irrelevant early.

“After we scored I saw the fans put the arrows away and thought ‘OK, done, we don’t need those anymore,’" Losada joked. "But it was good to know the net was there.” 

Montreal (9-12-2), which entered the match having been shut out in 12 of its last 22 matches, won for the first time since June 21 against Nashville SC heading into a month-long MLS break.

Charlotte (6-9-8) is winless in its last eight league games.

Both clubs began the evening tied with 26 points, just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and play in the Leagues Cup — a World Cup-style tournament between MLS and Liga MX teams — next week.

Piette, starting his first league match since April 1 due to a thigh injury, says it was crucial for Montreal to get three points heading into the MLS break after three straight setbacks.

"It was massive, especially after two losses at home, we wanted to bounce back after the (3-0 loss) in Chicago, we wanted to respond. Charlotte is a direct rival," said Piette, who also surpassed former Montreal winger Ignacio Piatti for the most MLS starts by a field player in club history with 131.

"I'm not too focused on the table, I'm more take one game at a time, but I know if we would have lost this today we could have been at the very bottom almost of the table."

Montreal produced the first Grade A scoring chance of the game four minutes in. Wingback Ariel Lassiter and midfielder Bryce Duke connected on a give-and-go play along the left wing, leading to a low Lassiter shot that forced Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina to stretch out and make a save.

Defender Jan Sobocinski had Charlotte’s best scoring chance in the 25th minute with a point-blank volley in the box after a poor clearance from Montreal defender Joel Waterman, but completely misfired wide of the net.

Opoku broke the deadlock by finishing a strong buildup play from Montreal. Wingback Aaron Herrera played a perfectly weighted through ball into the box for Duke, who fed a low cross toward the net that led to a scramble, and Opoku was on the doorstep to place the ball home.

The 22-year-old from Ghana was making his first start at home since Montreal acquired him in a trade with Los Angeles FC 10 days ago.

"Amazing player, very quick on the ball and his runs against the defence helped us,” said Montreal midfielder Mathieu Choiniere. “Very good player and it's good to have him on the team."

“Very happy for him. It's a great addition,” added Losada. “It's a great character in the locker room and I hope he can keep scoring many more goals.”

Moments after Opoku’s tally, Waterman played a long pass over Charlotte’s back line to Offor, who corralled a bouncing ball as Kahlina watched and fired it into the back of the net.

Montreal kept dominating the game in the second half as Charlotte failed to generate chances and lost its defensive structure.

Striker Jules-Anthony Vilsaint, who came on for Opoku in the 63rd minute, had an attempt saved in the 69th minute. Duke then missed the net on a golden opportunity to make it 3-0 off an Offor feed on the counterattack.

Montreal continued generating chances on the break and had little trouble keeping any danger away from Jonathan Sirois in the final 20 minutes, leading to the Montreal goalkeeper's ninth MLS clean sheet of the season.

In the end, Montreal had 14 shot attempts to Charlotte’s six.

“We deserved to score more than two goals, but on the whole the collective performance today was complete,” said Losada. “It was important for us to win, score, and put on a bit of a show for these fans.”


Montreal takes on Mexican club Pumas in the Leagues Cup next Saturday, with its next MLS game scheduled for Aug. 20 on the road against Toronto FC. 

Charlotte also returns to MLS action on Aug. 20 against the Lionel Messi-led Inter Miami FC. It plays FC Dallas to open the Leagues Cup on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2023.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press