Montreal’s Duke, Lassiter extra motivated to face former Inter Miami teammates Saturday

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Inter Miami will find two familiar faces across the field in CF Montreal uniforms when the teams play Saturday night at Saputo Stadium.

Midfielder Bryce Duke and winger Ariel Lassiter were traded from Inter Miami to Montreal in mid-April in return for defender Kamal Miller and $1.3 million. It will be the first time Duke and Lassiter play against their former team.

“Super proud of them, they were great players for us,” Inter Miami coach Phil Neville said of Duke and Lassiter. “I loved them both and still try to message them often when I see them playing well because I think of them as part of our family. I think the trade suited both clubs.”

Duke has started all six league games since arriving in Montreal, has scored one goal and recorded an assist. Lassiter has started six league games and scored his first goal for Montreal on Tuesday in the Canadian Cup semifinal against Forge.

The two teams have identical 5-8-0 records and are tied in 11th place in the MLS Eastern Conference. They played in the season opener and Miami won 2-0.

“It should be fun,” Duke said of facing Inter Miami. “I was there not too long ago, so it’s going to be a good game. Both teams are in similar spots, both need points. I’m excited to get on the field and play some of my old teammates and hopefully come out with three points.”

Duke has been offering scouting reports to his new coaches and teammates.

“I was there for a year, so I know how they play, certain tendencies, what the coaches might be thinking,” Duke said. “It’s definitely something I’ll be talking to the guys about and use that to our advantage.”

After the initial shock of being traded, Duke said he has gotten adjusted to his new club and surroundings.

“Personally, I think the trade was a good move on my behalf,” Duke said. “Both teams went on a stretch of wins after, so it looks like it worked out for both teams. My team is now Montreal. Focusing on taking the team to playoffs. The weather is a bit different, for sure, so I had to get adjusted to the cold. But the team is similar, good vibes, they’ve been super warm and helpful to make the move easier.”

Neville expects a difficult outing on Saturday.

“It’s an incredibly tough place to go play,” he said. “They’ve got some confidence, and are on a similar run to us, coming out of a tough period. They have a clear identity, five at the back, really good midfield players. MLS games on the road are always difficult and when you throw in the fact that you’re playing against two former players who have added motivation, and they will, it’s going to be a difficult game.”

Miami and Montreal have had similar story lines this season, with both going on a long win streak followed by a bit of a dip and a return to form with victories this week in cup play. Miami beat Nashville SC to advance to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, and Montreal beat Force to reach the Canadian Cup final.

“We’re a team that’s won six of the past eight games and I want us to start playing with that confidence and swagger of a team that’s won six of eight games,” Neville said. “We’re winning games, but I think there’s more to come.”