Charlotte FC will have their excellent home record tested to the maximum when they host CF Montreal on Saturday.
After a slow start, the Canadian side head to North Carolina in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten run in MLS play, during which they’ve scored an impressive 18 goals.
Montreal have climbed all the way up to third in the Eastern Conference as a result. They’ve also left a real impression on Charlotte head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, who was full of praise with his opposite number, Wilfried Nancy, earlier this week.
“They are the team I like the most. I really like what they try to do. I don’t see anything random. You see some movements and patterns done on purpose. What I really like is the coaching process behind it,” Ramirez told reporters ahead of this weekend’s clash at Bank of America Stadium.
“They are one of the most distinct teams in MLS. They aren’t afraid to try new things and that is something I really like.”
There are many different ways Montreal can hurt you but, undoubtedly, their primary avenue of attack is through playmaker Djordje Mihailovic.
The former Chicago Fire man has propelled himself into the MVP conversation during the early stages of this season, notching five goals and three assists in 10 MLS appearances. As a result, there are now calls for Mihailovic to be brought back into the USMNT picture.
Ramirez will be paying special attention to the 23-year-old.
“He’s a player that plays between the lines… a player like him, given space, will kill you,” Ramirez observed.
“For me, the most important thing is to not give him space to receive, turn, and fast line because it is where he can dribble, make that last pass or get a shot on target. He always creates something, he’s a really creative player and he’s able to cause trouble.
“The most important thing is to always be in this stance, to always be aware, to be close to reduce the space and time he can have.”
Regardless of Montreal’s form, Charlotte have been formidable at Bank of America Stadium. Since losing 1-0 to the LA Galaxy in their first-ever home match back in March, the Crown have won each of their four MLS matches on their own turf, picking up results against the likes of Atlanta United and the New England Revolution.
Ramirez and his team have forged a special connection with fans during that time and it might just be that home support that gets them over the line against a tough opponent.
“I don’t want to romanticize but at the end of the day, human beings seek love. To give and receive love,” Ramirez said of his bond with the Charlotte FC supporters, adding: “I try to give that to the people I work with, the players, the coaching staff, and to the fans as well. I feel very loved and respected. And I want to give the fans the same thing because of what they do for us.
“I think this is a give and take. I think they’ve understood from the very first day how hard it has been. It hasn’t been empathy from me, it’s been empathy from the fans.”