Alistair Johnston believes a run to MLS Cup for CF Montreal could prove beneficial to the Canadian Men's National Team's World Cup preparations.
Wilfried Nancy's side beat Orlando City 2-0 in Round One of the Playoffs to set up an Eastern Conference Semi-Final clash with defending champions NYCFC on Sunday.
Montreal had five players on the CanMNT's most recent roster, with Johnston joined by Kamal Miller, Joel Waterman, Ismael Kone, and Samuel Piette.
You'd forgive Canada head coach John Herdman for watching this Sunday's game with a feeling of unease with the Reds' World Cup opener against Belgium just a month away. However, Johnston believes a Playoffs run would serve as the perfect way for CF Montreal's Canadian contingent to stay fit ahead of the big trip to Qatar.
“It’s so difficult to replicate match fitness, and especially World Cup match fitness, where it’s just at such a different level of intensity that none of us have ever experienced before. It’s really difficult to just tell a guy to go out after playing a couple, maybe an exhibition match or two or some intrasquads, to go out there and get ready to take on Romelu Lukaku,” Johnston said (via TSN).
“So, you know, we look at it as a great opportunity not only for us with CF Montreal to go far and potentially lift some silverware here but also the chance that it is going to help us in the long run.”
Of course, there are no guarantees that Montreal will go any further in the Playoffs. NYCFC are, as mentioned, defending champions and enjoying a run of five consecutive victories across all competitions.
Coming off the back of a resounding 3-0 victory over Inter Miami in Round One, confidence will be high among Nick Cushing's men.
“They’re a really good team. There’s obviously been a bit of change, you know [head coach Ronny Delia] and losing [Valentin Castellanos] but at the same time this is still the same core that has gone and done a lot of things,” Johnston said of Sunday's opposition.
“It should be a really exciting game and I think all of us are up for it. It does really kind of bring out the joy playing in a match like this because you know they’re not just going to sit deep and bunker and launch it long. It’s going to be more of a free-flowing game, and for us, that kind of plays into our hand as well. So, we’re excited for that.”
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