As he sat at the podium for his post-match press conference after CF Montréal’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC Saturday night at Stade Saputo, head coach Wilfred Nancy was asked about the difference between the Heineken Rivalry Week victory and the clubs' last Canadian Classique showdown – a 4-0 loss to the Reds in the Canadian Championship semifinals at BMO Field three-plus weeks ago.
Nancy talked about how his team controlled the counterattack better, among other things, but it was also clear there was one big difference between the two rivalry showdowns.
And it’s the return of Djordje Mihailovic.
The midfielder, a clear Landon Donovan MLS MVP candidate, suffered an ankle injury in late May that forced him to withdraw from the US men’s national team's June window and miss six CF Montréal matches – five in the league and that Canadian Championship defeat.
Mihailovic completed 78.6 percent of his passes, including two key passes, and won 50 percent of his duels. He wasn’t his pre-injury self, when he was one of the league’s scoring leaders with seven goals and four assists in 14 matches, but he got an important run-out and Nancy liked what he saw.
“I was happy, first for Djordje because it's been a long time for him. It's been also really difficult,” Nancy said of the seven-week absence. “He did a Djordje in terms of he helped the team to try to score. It was a little bit difficult for him in terms of rhythm because at the end Djordje, this is one of the better guys in terms of being able to run for a long time and repeat the action at a high intensity.”
The emotional rivalry win comes on the heels of back-to-back defeats and moved CF Montréal into fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 32 points after 20 matches.
But it's a win over Toronto FC and Mihailovic is back on the pitch. On the night, that’s enough to make Nancy smile.