Montgomery embraces Cavalry's host of Cup leg in hometown Victoria

Vancouver Island fullback ‘bringing the people out’ for Wednesday’s Concacaf contest

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Victory in Victoria.

It would mean a lot to Cavalry FC — arguably the most important moment of the Canadian Premier League club’s five-plus-year history — in its much-anticipated Concacaf Champions Cup debut on Wednesday.

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But how electric would such a win be for the guy from Vancouver Island — the only player who can claim true home-field advantage at Starlight Stadium?

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“It’s just a cool situation,” said Cavalry defender Callum Montgomery, a native of nearby Nanaimo, B.C. “It’s cool to go back and play in front of friends and family. I grew up there in Victoria, so I spent a lot of minutes on that field and spent a lot of time there. So it’s always cool to go back and play there.

“Especially like this against an MLS opponent. It’ll be a great test and really looking forward to it.”

The home show late Wednesday (8 p.m. MT, OneSoccer/OneSoccer.ca) for the fullback Montgomery has been made possible by the earliest-ever start of the Concacaf Champions Cup — known previously as Concacaf Champions League.

Since Cavalry’s home leg of this first round versus Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC has to be played in February, it was deemed — rightly — unsafe to play in snow-bound Calgary, hence causing the need to have the match played elsewhere.

With year-round conditions and temperatures on Vancouver Island much more suitable than Alberta, the Cavs’ debut in the much-hyped continental event has been moved to Langford, B.C. — just a stone’s throw from Victoria.

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While it isn’t at all what the club — nor the fans — wanted, it’s OK by Montgomery.

It’s a bit of an advantage, really, for the local lad to play at Starlight Stadium — the Island’s soccer mecca.

“I love it, because it’s a chance for young players — like myself when I was growing up — to see the top level of North America — the biggest tournament — come to their backyard, which I didn’t have the opportunity to do that growing up,” Montgomery said. “So it’s an unbelievable chance for that.

“I played a lot of games growing up there in that stadium,” continued the 26-year-old defender. “So especially when you’re playing at night — that’s when training sessions were — you kind of go back to feeling like a little kid playing on that pitch. So I think that feeling will come out for me.”

Montgomery grew up playing recreational soccer in Nanaimo.

When he got older, he moved 90 minutes south to Victoria to get more serious about the sport, attending a private boarding school — St. Michaels University — and playing soccer for the high-profile Victoria Highlanders academy.

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The Highlanders played mostly in a men’s league in Victoria and travelled to Vancouver and Seattle — among other soccer hot spots in the United States.

“On the Island, you’re definitely a bit isolated from the rest of British Columbia,” said Montgomery, who followed fellow Islander Josh Heard — the captain of Pacific FC — into the professional ranks. “The provincial team, the Whitecaps and all that were based over in Vancouver, so it was a bit more of a challenge for people coming from the Island.

“That being said, I think there’s a ton of talent on the Island,” continued Montgomery. “And to be fair, Pacific and the Canadian Premier League coming in has given smaller communities — like Victoria and Vancouver Island — a chance to really develop players and to show them that there’s a pathway for them. So I think having a professional team on the Island and having games like this in town are only going to help inspire the next generation.”

It’s certainly inspiring to Montgomery himself.

“I’m bringing the people out … yeah,” Montgomery said. “A lot of friends and family will be coming out Wednesday.

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“I wouldn’t say it’s more pressure. Maybe a bit more inspiration. It’s just a little bit more motivating to play in front of your parents up in the stands. Obviously, for myself, it’ll be a bit bigger of a crowd than I’m used to there and a bit bigger event. But it should be good.”

And Montgomery says he’s ready to go after his debut season with Cavalry was marred by injury.

After his three years with the Highlanders, the phenom vaulted to the Major League Soccer ranks with FC Dallas — from 2019-20 — and Minnesota United — from 2021-22 — but never got into MLS action, having been loaned by those clubs to various United Soccer League and MLS Next Pro squads.

After sports hernia surgery last off-season, he signed on with the Cavs but played just 14 games year-long with an injury — suffered ironically at Starlight Stadium in Canadian Championship action — limiting his action.

“That kind of set back my year,” said the 6-foot-3 Montgomery. “But I feel like right now in the best shape of my life. I think I’ve had a really strong pre-season. And a year of kind of understanding the team and understanding the coaching staff and being more cohesive with the group, I think, is going to help me have a great year.”

Beginning, he hopes, with Wednesday’s home game in Victoria.

“As far as one of the biggest games of my life, I think it’s gotta be up there for me,” added Montgomery. “I played with Canada’s under-23s in the Olympic qualifiers down in Mexico (in 2021), so it’s between that game and this one.

“These games don’t come around very often, so you have to be ready for them.”

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