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Columbus Crew SC Know How to Handle the Montreal Impact Following First Meeting

Crew SC can't repeat the same mistakes from a month ago against the Impact.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Columbus Crew SC saw the Montreal Impact was not a happy memory.

One of the bottom teams in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference came into MAPFRE Stadium and walked out with a 2-1 win.

"They played a good game against us last time," Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter said when asked about that match.

If the Columbus players expected to go out and dominate the Impact just because of where the team stood in the standings, they had a rude awakening that night.

Montreal played a smart game, playing tight and compact defensively, allowing Crew SC to possess in front of the back line but not get much behind it. The Black & Gold had 20 shots in the match, but only four were on target and hardly any came from dangerous areas.

On top of that, the Impact took advantages of mistakes by Columbus and hit the team on the counterattack.

"They countered us effectively and they stayed very compact," Berhalter went on. "They made it difficult for us."

It is a philosophy many have attempted against Berhalter's side and to varying degrees of success. Montreal played that style to perfection, so will they adapt the same strategy at home?

Berhalter hopes not.

"We'll see what this game brings," he said. "I'm hoping that they're at home and they're going to play, they're going to want to attack us more and that will help us out a little bit. So we'll see what happens."

While the Impact typically open up more at home - two goals per match at Stade Saputo as opposed to 1.13 on the road - the team still likes to keep things tight and counter when possible. Especially against an attacking side like Crew SC.

According to Berhalter, the problem in the first game was the Black & Gold played too slow and allowed Montreal's game plan to work. This is what can't happen in this meeting.

"What I think has to happen is, I said this last time, everything needs to be quicker," he explained. "We can play slow, but when we're ready for the action, it has to be at high speed otherwise you have no chance. So it's waiting for the moment and when that moment comes, it's done at absolute maximum speed."

Columbus' style naturally opens the team to the counterattack because of the numbers thrown forward. This means a team like Montreal will get chances on the break.

One way to combat that is to keep the ball and finish chances. That doesn't mean scoring every time the team attacks, but at least getting a shot or putting the ball over the end line.

According to Berhalter, his side also needs to be aware of where the danger men are and be ready to neutralize them if the counter opportunity presents itself.

"Knowing where a guy like Piatti is [is important,]" Berhalter said. "And Donadel did a great job last time getting him the ball. So it's identifying some of those pieces. And if Oduro plays, we know he's got the pace to stretch the back line, so we're going to have to be aware of that. McInerney with his clever movement. They have some good pieces and we're going to have to be on our toes."

While this game may be a more open affair than the first meeting, Crew SC must be wary of what did the club in in the first meeting. This is the key to getting revenge for the last loss this season.