MTLvATXPreview

After three weeks off from MLS play due to a FIFA international break, Austin FC is set to make its return to league action on Saturday night, when the Verde & Black visit Stade Saputo to take on CF Montréal.

It’s the first-ever meeting between the two sides and only Austin’s second all-time away match in Canada. Both teams find themselves near the top of their respective conference standings, which should make for an entertaining contest with plenty of quality on the pitch.

Austin FC Outlook

Saturday’s match begins a stretch in which Austin will play 5 of its next 7 on the road. The Verde & Black have shown great improvement on their travels this season, picking up 10 points from seven away games so far thanks to victories over D.C. United, Houston Dynamo FC, and Los Angeles FC.

Diego Fagundez’s production in road games has been especially impressive. The midfielder has three goals and four assists across eight away matches in all competitions this season, and either scored or assisted the game-winning goal in all three of Austin FC’s aforementioned MLS road wins. Fagundez's six career goals and six career assists against Montréal are his highest total in each respective category against any single opponent.

The Verde & Black currently occupy fourth place in the MLS Western Conference standings with three matches to go until the midway point of the season. Montréal is one of three remaining road trips to an Eastern Conference opponent, with Charlotte and Atlanta on the horizon in the next few weeks.

It has the makings of a tricky run of fixtures, but if ATXFC can emerge from it with enough points to keep themselves above the playoff line, it will set the team up very well for the latter part of the season in which 8 of its final 13 matches are at home.

CF Montréal Outlook

Montréal started 2022 poorly, picking up only one point from its opening four matches. Since then though, Head Coach Wilfried Nancy has steered his side in the right direction, winning 7 of the last 10 to climb up to third place in the MLS Eastern Conference.

Midfielder Djordje Mihailovic is a big reason behind Montréal’s excellent form, with seven goals and four assists to his name. He's set to miss the match against the Verde & Black though after he picked up an ankle injury in the last game before the international break, forcing him to withdraw from involvement with the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Even without Mihailovic, Montréal has plenty of attacking options, including Romell Quioto (five goals, two assists), Joaquín Torres (three goals, five assists), and one of MLS’ all-time great goal-scorers, 37-year-old veteran Kei Kamara (three goals, three assists). Canadian international Alistair Johnston, as well as former Tottenham Hotspur FC midfielder Victor Wanyama, are also names to watch for.

As a team, Montréal’s 28 goals scored are tied with Austin for second-most in MLS, and the team seems to prefer winning matches by outscoring their opponents rather than focusing on defensive solidity - its 26 goals allowed are fourth-most in MLS and the most of any team currently in a playoff position. The Canadian club kept one clean sheet in its opening 14 matches, a vulnerability which Austin will surely look to exploit on Saturday.

Probable CF Montréal Lineup

(3-4-2-1, R-L) - GK: Sebastian Breza; Joel Waterman, Rudy Camacho, Zorhan Bassong; Alistair Johnston, Ismaël Koné, Victor Wanyama, Mathieu Choinière; Joaquín Torres, Ahmed Hamdi; Romell Quioto