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New locale, same rivalry as CF Montreal, Toronto FC meet

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New coaches, a new city, and even a new team name won’t dampen the old intensity of the 401 Derby when Toronto FC faces host side Club de Foot Montreal on Saturday at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the first game for each of the 2021 MLS season.

Formerly known as the Montreal Impact, the newly christened CF Montreal will begin their season sharing a home stadium with Inter Miami. Due to cross-border COVID-19 protocols, all three Canadian MLS teams (CF Montreal, Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps) are playing in the United States until further notice.

Beyond the new environment, CF Montreal also will debut several new players after a busy offseason.

Defender Kiki Struna was acquired from the Houston Dynamo to reinforce the back line. Djordje Mihailovic, formerly of the Chicago Fire, and Bjorn Johnsen, signed in February after most recently playing on South Korea, are expected to provide some offensive punch up front.

Meeting his new teammates in training camp was “like a birthday party” for Mihailovic.

“It was great to get some minutes in too,” he said. “We have a real game coming soon … so these are valuable moments that we need.”

Wilfried Nancy will make his debut as Montreal’s new head coach. The longtime assistant coach was promoted to the top position after Thierry Henry resigned in March.

Toronto FC also made a change on the sideline, hiring former New York Red Bulls coach Chris Armas. He replaces Greg Vanney, who resigned in December and now is head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

It was otherwise a rather quiet offseason for the roster, as Toronto FC again are counting on their veteran cornerstones to lead them back to the playoffs and on a deeper run than last season’s first-round exit. However, Armas is also counting on big contributions from Toronto’s younger players.

“To maintain health, to maintain hunger and internal competition, to maintain a style of play that you want to play … it’s going to require us to rotate players,” Armas said. “Throw that into the tight schedule, it has to happen.”

Toronto FC’s Jonathan Osorio (suspension) will not play Saturday, while Jozy Altidore (leg) and Alejandro Pozuelo (undisclosed) are questionable due to injuries.

CF Montreal’s Lassi Lappalainen is questionable, with the midfielder still recovering from shoulder surgery in October.

–Field Level Media

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