MONTREAL — As the third week of CF Montreal’s training camp draws to an end, the Major League Soccer club's turbulent off-season continues to draw attention away from the implementation of new head coach Hernan Losada’s tactical philosophy.
The club confirmed Thursday morning that it had reached an agreement with the Philadelphia Union to send forward Joaquin Torres stateside. In exchange Montreal will receive as much as US$800,000 in general allocation money — $250,000 in both 2023 and 2024 as well as up to $300,000 depending on how Torres performs.
Between Torres’s departure, striker Kei Kamara’s trade request, and the injury history of both Romell Quioto and Mason Toye, Montreal will have to find goals from the entire team. That is something the club is accustomed to, boasting the highest scoring defence in MLS last season, with 18 goals coming from the back line.
"It doesn't matter who scores, we have a lot of quality players everywhere. Every time quality players leave it hurts, but that’s football," said wing back Lassi Lappalainen, who scored three of his own in 2022. "I think I was playing pretty well (last season) but I was lacking goals and some assists, so I want to improve that."
While Montreal’s attack appears to need reinforcements, their defence has received an influx of young talent to complement the already strong back line.
George Campbell and Aaron Herrera have added physicality and depth to the corps that boasts three Canadian internationals, including Kamal Miller, who played all three games for Canada at last year's World Cup.
"It was a dream come true, just to be on that stage with the guys I start with back in 2019 when I made my debut was special,” Miller said. "I see some of our guys who play in Europe and what they’re up against every day. It’s inspiration for the guys back here in MLS to keep pushing."
Even with Canada’s disappointing exit from the World Cup group stage, Miller’s play was standout, leading to a number of reports linking him to a move overseas. Miller has not shied away from his ambition to play in Europe — much like most young, talented North American players — and continue his growth amongst the biggest clubs in the world.
"I’m happy to be here right now if it’s for the whole season, I’m there for all 34 games I’ll give it my all," Miller said. "You see players do well in MLS and get that move so my goal is to play as well as possible and hopefully that could be me."
Despite the rumours swirling off the pitch, Losada and his staff seemed determined to gradually incorporate tactical work into training sessions this week. The group has transitioned from the running and fitness-focused portion of camp to game situations and set pieces.
Based on the work done, Losada seemingly will not stray too far from the club’s identity in the last few years of looking to build out from the back and maintain dominance over both the ball and tempo of play.
The starkest change in tactics so far is the way he wants players to press the ball. His strict view of personal nutrition and fitness is instrumental to his high press that constantly looks to pin teams back in their own third and force turnovers.
Losada has not shied away from his admiration of traditional Argentine pressing that relies on midfielders following up an extremely aggressive forward line in order to pounce on mistakes.
"Focus is starting to shift a little bit from running and hard work to now more tactical," said Miller. "He’s a coach that loves to press. We pressed that last, but I think we’re taking it to another level this year because we’re in such good shape."
A scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday against the club’s under-23 squad before their final week in Montreal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press