The Crew have an extra day to get ready for the Impact. A winter storm pushed the game back a day and both teams play a Sunday matinee. The extra day should all but insure that Federico Higuain will be healthy enough to play. Montreal is a perfect 2-0-0 at home, driving them to the top of the conference standings. Columbus is unbeaten in three, going 1-2-0. They'll have to work to keep that streak alive.
Crew on Offense: The big decision again will be Jairo Arrieta or Dominic Oduro (or both). Oduro scored a goal in the second half to get a tie with the Union, but it was only after Arrieta came on and pushed Oduro to the wing.
Oduro is likely to feature heavily again. Alessandro Nesta is rumored to be returning to the lineup to play with Matteo Ferrari. The pairing is heavy on experience, but not speed. Oduro would present challenges on the counterattack for the Impact while Arrieta the battler would have to face down two experienced Serie A defenders.
The Crew may have room to play both Arrieta and Oduro though. The formation would have to rely on Eddie Gaven playing a two way game in central midfield. The Crew looked best when Gaven dropped into midfield paired with Danny O'Rourke. The Crew kept possession far better and unshackled Higuain to an extent.
The Impact like to keep the ball centrally, the Crew's wingers are likely to be pinched in to help. This means that the width will come from Tyson Wahl and Josh Williams a little more than normal. Williams has two goals, but neither of them have been exceedingly dangerous on offense during the run of play. The Crew need better crosses from the duo.
Crew on Defense: Columbus must keep tabs on Marco Di Vaio. He's the Impact's leader in shots, shots on goal, and has a team high two goals. He's a danger every time he gets the ball in the area. He can hold up play and is dangerous with his off the ball movement. Glauber and Marshall will have to be sharper as Di Vaio has seen countless offside traps and isn't afraid to break them.
While Di Vaio might be the most lethal, Fabrice Bernier may be the most dangerous overall. He has three assists in 2013 from his deep lying playmaker spot. With Bernier playing deep, he doesn't match up with Danny O'Rourke or Agustin Viana. The most immediate defensive responsibility will fall to Higuain. He has the industry to press Bernier, but it will certainly be a team effort to keep him from spreading the ball around.
The central midfield will have to match up with Davy Arnaud and Felipe with Bernier pulling the strings behind them. This means a lot of running out of O'Rourke and his partner, whether that's Viana, Matias Sanchez, or even Gaven. Closing down their forward runs will be very helpful in starving Di Vaio.
Final Walkthrough: Not surprisingly, the Crew's performance will likely rise and fall on how Higuain does. However, the Argentine playmaker doesn't have to run the game, he just has to keep as many Impact players busy on defense. With Montreal looking to play possession soccer, Higuain attracting Bernier, Arnaud, and Felipe helps pull them out of shape. The more attention he attracts, the less likely Montreal can keep to their game plan.
The Impact have too many player that can move the ball. They will play a possession game that will keep the Crew off balance and give Di Vaio and the Montreal attack too many chances. The Columbus are deadly on the break and should be able to pick up a goal.
Crew 1 - Impact 2