CF Montréal take hot start to Inter Miami: Can they shock Lionel Messi?

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One of the surprise teams of the young 2024 MLS season? CF Montréal.

Led by new head coach Laurent Courtois, Montréal have an impressive four points from two road games to start the year – a 0-0 draw at Orlando City SC and a 2-1 win at FC Dallas.

Now they enter the lion’s den for Matchday 4, looking to beat Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF on Sunday at Chase Stadium (5 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

"If you look at last year, they only collected eight road points all season long in 2023. They're halfway there in two games and it's an outstanding job," MLS Season Pass analyst Kaylyn Kyle told

New leadership

Last year, some Decision Day drama resulted in Montréal finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference and narrowly missing the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs. Then they parted ways with head coach Hernán Losada in early November, hitting the reset button.

Adding to the bitter taste in Montréal fans’ mouths, ex-manager Wilfried Nancy led the Columbus Crew to an MLS Cup 2023 presented by Audi title in December. One year prior, the Frenchman oversaw Montréal’s best-ever season (65 points) as they challenged for the Supporters’ Shield and had numerous star players – Djordje Mihailovic, Alistair Johnston and Ismaël Koné – secure wintertime transfers to Europe.

At a crossroads, Montréal landed on Courtois to chart a path back towards trophy contention. So far, so good from the man who won the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro title in 2022 with Columbus.

"He's given players the confidence to make mistakes, get into the match, not be scared to bring their footballing flair out," Kyle said. "He's gotten players to buy in, which I always say is like coaching up a team that maybe you wouldn't think would push for those top six spots in the East.

"It's because you've given players confidence and that's a huge thing. If you have a manager who comes in and gives you the confidence to patch up those cracks and gives you the ability to make mistakes, you want to play for somebody like that. I see players playing for him, I see players working for him, I see players buying in."

Josef factor

All the while, Montréal quietly achieved a strong winter transfer window. To name a few: MLS-proven wingbacks Ruan and Raheem Edwards were acquired via trades, striker Matías Cóccaro and attacking midfielder Dominic Iankov arrived from abroad, and legendary striker Josef Martínez signed in free agency.

Martínez, who opened his Montréal account last weekend, is ninth all-time in the MLS record books with 106 goals. That should create momentum for Sunday’s match at Inter Miami, where the Venezuelan international played in 2023 after his storied Atlanta United career ended.

"Moving from Miami to Montréal is not easy, but what I know about being from Canada is that Canadians are truly nice people, good human beings who embrace everyone and want to see people succeed and do well," Kyle said.

"So if you have that foundation with a soccer culture and history in Montréal, and it's a beautiful place to live with great food and great city, a good coach that's instilling confidence in you – I feel like this is a really good place where Josef can thrive and really focus on the football end of things. Also since having his kid, you've seen almost a different, softer side to him at this stage of his career."

Should Montréal stun Inter Miami while navigating injuries to forward Kwadwo Opoku and others, a statement reverberates across MLS.

"Montréal have truly done a great job getting four points on the road, so you know the morale on that team is flying," Kyle said. "That's especially after all of us in MLS had them 13th, 14th or 15th in the East, not expecting much. If I'm them, I have those predictions laminated in the locker room for even extra motivation."