I hope you find anyone who loves you as much as CF Montréal love playing at home right now.
Chinonso Offor’s third goal of the season and a super goalkeeping display from Jonathan Sirois lifted CFM to a 1-0 win over Inter Miami on Saturday in what was their sixth consecutive home win in all competitions.
In a game in which both the possession and the expected goals were dominated by the visitors, a staunch rearguard action led by home goalkeeper Sirois first keep the game in the balance and later preserved the slender lead after Offor struck in the 53rd minute.
In fact, Sirois was nothing short of superb in goal, putting his team on his back and making five saves, more than one of which was spectacular, to earn the win. The LaSalle, Que. native set a new club record in the process of recording a fifth clean sheet, reaching 363 consecutive minutes of home action without conceding a goal. By the time the game ended, that had been extended to 405 minutes thanks to a fourth successive home shutout.
Sirois has more than earned the No. 1 spot he inherited temporarily from the injured James Pantemis in the very first game of this season. He’s unlikely to relinquish it anytime soon; the rookie ranks sixth among MLS goalkeepers with 46 saves in 2023 and is now a CFM record-setter.
“He hasn’t stopped improving, he has a really good mentality,” head coach Hernán Losada said of Sirois, per The Canadian Press’ Tristan D’Amours. “Tip of the hat for all that Jonathan has shown. We haven’t forgotten that this is his first season and he plays with a lot of confidence, with experience and I’m very happy for him.”
Sirois’ performance was the most notable in front of an electric atmosphere at Stade Saputo, but others stepped up for Montreal, who were riding the wave of booking their spot in the Canadian Championship final in midweek, as Losada’s men shook off the malaise of back-to-back league defeats.
One of those was Offor.
Montreal needed a striker to step up after the news that Romell Quioto could be out until July, and Offor netted the only goal of the game from a sweet Ariel Lassiter cross eight minutes after half-time. That goal was the conclusion of the game’s defining 90 seconds; a minute earlier, Sirois’ excellent save had denied Corentin Jean an opener from long range and resulted in chants of “Sirois! Sirois!” from the stands behind him.
Lassiter, meanwhile, who came on as a half-time substitute and provided the match-winning assist soon after, was part of an intriguing subplot to the game. He and his teammate Bryce Duke both faced their former club and Canadian national team centre-back Kamal Miller returned to Montreal for the first time since the blockbuster offseason trade that caught everyone by surprise in mid-April.
“It was definitely a good experience to be back,” Miller said of playing in front of the Stade Saputo crowd again. “It was really good to see all the guys, my former teammates. It was tough to play against them but overall it was a good game and I couldn’t be happier to be back.”
Another ex-CF Montréal star and former teammate of Miller’s, Ismaël Koné, was also in the building Saturday night to watch his old club following the conclusion of his EFL Championship season with Watford.
The Canadian international’s season started so brightly at Watford in January. But a poor run of games saw Hornets boss Slaven Bilić, who was a big supporter of the young Canadian, sacked with their Premier League promotion hopes dashed and Koné struggled for game time under Chris Wilder.
He ultimately saw a victory for his old team on his return as Montreal held out, although they were millimetres away from having the win snatched from their grasp when Miami hit the woodwork with three minutes of normal time remaining.
A return to playing at home was just the ticket for Losada’s side; Saturday’s win was their sixth consecutive W at Stade Saputo in all competitions and they have now won their last four home league games without conceding a single goal.
“It was kind of a final for us to be honest with you,” Losada said. “A home game against a straight opponent, who had before tonight the exact same amount of games played, victories and defeats as us. It was very important to keep the three points at home.”
The problem now is that they move on to a two-game road swing, first against D.C. United on Wednesday night and then in Philadelphia next Saturday. CFM have won just one and lost seven of their eight MLS away games so far this season, in contrast with their five home wins from six. It’s Jekyll and Hyde form, and it needs to end soon if CFM are to get serious about their playoff push with the season’s midpoint approaching.