MONTREAL — Two dramatic goals in stoppage time from Chinonso Offor and Romell Quioto saw Montreal pick up its first points of the Major League Soccer season in a back-and-forth 3-2 win over Philadelphia Union on Saturday night at Olympic Stadium.
Quioto scored a brace and Offor added another in Montreal’s (1-3-0) home opener, while Mikael Uhre scored a brace of his own for Philadelphia (2-2-0).
A significantly reworked Montreal squad was needed due to the injury streak currently running rampant in the locker room, with players earning their first starts or playing out of position. However, this created a sense of unity and fighting spirit, according to team captain Victor Wanyama.
“That’s football,” said head coach Hernan Losada while smiling ear-to-ear. “This is why supporters come to the stadium and this is why it’s the best sport in the world.”
Montreal pressed from the opening kickoff and it ended up rewarding them, winning the ball high up the pitch multiple times. Less than two minutes in, the aggressive pressure paid dividends as Lassi Lappalainen laid the ball off for Mathieu Choinière whose shot was blocked by a handball. It was on Quioto to convert the penalty and did so by smashing the ball into the top left corner.
Following the goal, Philadelphia looked for an equalizer and began pushing further up field. While Montreal spent large spans of the first half on the defensive, they enjoyed two more golden opportunities through Mason Toye and Quioto.
Despite being consistently turned away, the Union began asking questions of Montreal keeper Jonathan Sirois with shots from every angle toward the end of the first half. The youngster turned them all away, much to the delight of the crowd and preserving the lead going into halftime.
“It was an indescribable feeling. It important to keep cool during the game and not let it get to your head, but I was buzzing,” said Sirois. “This is something you dream about as a kid and it’s the reason that I became a professional soccer player.”
However, Philadelphia would strike back as quickly as Montreal opened the scoring. Daniel Gazdag intercepted a pass at the top of the Montreal penalty area and found Uhre, who made no mistake and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.
As Montreal began to reassert itself, it was the squad's turn to suffer at the hands of the counterattack. Gazdag once again picked out Uhre, playing him through on goal and giving Philadelphia the lead at the hour mark.
Montreal was then let back into the game when Julian Carranza was given his second yellow card for a late challenge on Joel Waterman.
This was the spark Montreal needed as Offor scored an equalizer that was initially allowed, but then called offside by VAR. However, due to a player that was not seen in the first VAR review, a second review was initiated, Offor was deemed as an onside player, and the tying goal stood.
“We are all humans, and we can all make mistakes. Fortunately for us, this was a situation where you can come back from that decision because at the end they made the good call,” said Losada.
“It was a bit all or nothing at the end and tonight it worked. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t, but we fought for every ball and that was crucial.”
Losada went on to praise the team’s desire to collect all three points, rather than escape with a draw and they did just that. With the Montreal crowd in raptures, the home side pushed for a winner, which they got when Quioto got on the end of a Mathieu Choinière cross, delivering the dramatic win.
Philadelphia will return home to host Orlando City SC on March 25 while Montreal will use the week off to recover before travelling to BC Place and square off against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 1.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2023.
Elias Grigoriadis, The Canadian Press