No, you’re not having déjà vu. Columbus Crew SC is really playing the Montreal Impact yet again. Saturday night will mark the third, and final, time this regular season the Eastern Conference foes face each other.
The first meeting was at Montreal’s Stade Olympique and played on a difficult turf playing surface. The Impact took advantage, earning a 2-0 win over Crew SC. A month later, Montreal came to Columbus and were down 4-1 after 53 minutes. By the end of the match, the Impact tied the game at 4-4 and that was the last Black & Gold fans saw of Kei Kamara in a Crew SC uniform.
The four points taken against Columbus is part of the 19 the club has on the season, good enough for a tie at second place in the East.
Attacking midfielder Ignacio Piatti leads the Impact with eight goals on the year, but will miss out on this contest due to surgery on his left hand. Without him, Didier Drogba will have to take on a bigger role and look to build on his five goals and four assists through eight matches this year.
Former Crew SC winger Dominic Oduro paces Montreal with five assists. Drogba is behind him with four before Harry Shipp and Piatti with three a piece.
Goalkeeper Evan Bush has made 38 saves in 2016. The Ohio native has allowed 20 goals and has two shutouts on the season.
Although Columbus fans may feel like they know a lot about the Impact due to the two early season meetings, we felt the need to touch base with John Richan of Mount Royal Soccer yet again to see what’s new with Montreal over the last month.
Questions for Mount Royal Soccer
Massive Report: Crew SC aren't the only club dealing with injuries. It looks like the Impact could be a little depleted as well with most notably Ignacio Piatti out. He's terrorized Columbus this season so what will Montreal do if he can't go?
Mount Royal Soccer: This is a tough one to answer. Going into the season the Impact appeared to have great depth in the attacking third of the pitch, with the goal of taking some of the pressure off of Piatti and Drogba. The likes of [Lucas Ontivero], Shipp, Venegas were put in place by the Montreal front office in order to take some of the work load off the big two attacking players. Unfortunately for Montreal it has not really worked out like that, as these players have struggled to find chemistry amidst some injuries. Having said that, I would keep my eye on Johan Venegas on Saturday night. Venegas is a Costa Rican international player who had a fantastic final game of the Copa America last week. The attacking player scored a goal, 'set up' an own goal, and almost scored another in the second half. If Venegas can find his stride with the Impact it will just be one more weapon to add to the arsenal.
MR: While we're not quite halfway through the season, the break kind of gives it that feel. How do you rate the Impact's start to the year 13 games through?
MRS: Overall....not to shabby. I think the biggest disappointment came last week with the Impact getting knocked out of the Amway Canadian Championship at the hands of Toronto FC. I think it would have been naive for any Impact supporter to believe that Montreal could continue the way they were at the end of last season. They are a far deeper and skilled team then they have ever been since joining MLS. The challenge for Montreal is finding a healthy and in form starting XI and being able to just go with it. They have had trouble the last couple of months finding this consistency week in and week out. Expectations were high going into the season and some supporters might be disappointed, however this team is still a work in progress.
MR: Around MLS I don't think Dominic Oduro gets much credit other than being fast. Crew SC fans always loved him here, but what impact has he made on the Impact, especially with his statistical production this season?
MRS: Good question. I think supporters are finally (slowly) coming around to Dominic Oduro as a player this season. I think Oduro gets a bad rap at times for not having the best first touch and on occasion missing great scoring opportunities. Having said that I think people have come around to appreciate his work rate every time he steps on the field, his versatility (to play either up top or on the wing), his obvious speed, and his opportunism. Dominic Oduro is one player on the Impact that has been relatively healthy and reliable over the last two season in Montreal. He might not always make the starting XI, but when called upon he always gives it everything.
To read Massive Report’s answers to Mount Royal Soccer, head on over to their site.