With both teams recently hitting their stride, Saturday night's game at Crew Stadium between Columbus and the Montreal Impact will be quite the battle as the two teams fight for a spot in the playoffs (7:30).
Montreal and Columbus are each tied with 39 points this year, but the Impact have played three more games. The final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference currently belongs to the Chicago Fire and D.C. United, who are both on 41 points.
After a slow start to their inaugural MLS season, the Impact have rattled off five consecutive wins, including a 3-0 home victory over D.C. last Saturday. The Crew are on a five-game unbeaten streak with their previous three games all being wins. On Wednesday, Columbus beat the Union in Philadelphia after a 95th minute goal, 2-1.
This will be the third and final meeting between the Crew and Impact during the regular season. On March 24th, Columbus won 2-0 at home after a Milovan Mirosevic penalty and an Olman Vargas header. In early June, the Crew took the lead in Montreal before succumbing to their offensive pressure and loosing, 2-1.
More after the jump...With Josh Williams' red card and Julius James retroactive suspension for violent conduct against Philadelphia (plus Carlos Mendes' previous hamstring injury), Columbus' depth in defense will be tested tonight. Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, and Danny O'Rourke should still all start.
However, coach Robert Warzycha has a few options. O'Rourke could slide over to left back, leaving Eric Gehrig to come in at center defense. Or, Nemanja Vukovic, currently in the doghouse, could return to his previous starting left back position, allowing O'Rourke to remain in the center. Either way, we will definitely see a change from the previous few games.
The Crew's attack has gone from being one of the most lethargic to most dangerous this year after a few mid-season additions. Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain have been racking up goals and assists lately. Combined with Eddie Gaven, the trio have turned Columbus' attack into a major threat.
Meanwhile, Montreal's attack is lead by midfielders Patrice Bernier and Felipe Martins. Bernier leads the team with nine goals and also has eight assists, while Martins has four goals and nine assists. Designated Player forward Marco Di Vaio has picked up his play of late, scoring twice in the last two games. While the Impact's defense has given up the second most goals in the league, they are now anchored by Alessandro Nesta and have tightened up in the back, allowing only two goals in the past five games.
Prediction: Crew 2-1 Impact
Columbus picks up three points at home after another dramatic late winner, the product of more Federico Higuain magic.