After a 17-day layoff in league play to allow for national team callups for continental tournament play, Columbus Crew SC hosted the Montreal Impact for the second and final time this season. While the draw outcome was the same, the tenor of this match did not resemble the drama of the shot-riddled 4-4 result from May 7th.
In fairness, the starting XI each team fielded six weeks ago was also rather different Saturday. Not only was Kei Kamara traded to New England since the May clash, Ignacio Piatti was injured and did not play for Montreal. Furthermore, health concerns throughout the roster and Designated Player Federico Higuaín's absence called for head coach Gregg Berhalter to make some changes this time around.
Concerns surrounding the health of forward Ola Kamara's hamstring, center back Tyson Wahl possibly exhibiting concussion symptoms and midfielder Mohammed Saeid sustaining a cracked vertebra all swirled this week.
With Ethan Finlay slotted at forward, and Ola Kamara being substituted in at right wing for Héctor Jiménez late in the game, after Jiménez had been playing in Finlay's normal spot, it was a new look but ultimately a similar tactical approach.
The retooled Black & Gold dominated the possession battle, but holding on to the ball more than 61 percent of the time proved fruitless, as the home club couldn't convert any of its 12 shots for a score.
Ivorian superstar Didier Drogba was largely held in check. Concerted efforts by a deep-dropping Wil Trapp and Captain Michael Parkhurst to track the tall striker were very efficient, and Crew SC limited the Impact's forward to just three aerial touches and two shots.
The pace of play increased drastically toward the end of both halves, as each team seemed eager to capitalize on its opposition's miscues to earn an advantage. Passing accuracy was not Montreal's strong suit during the match, only completing 72.5 percent, but their transition work looked to threaten Columbus several times. Aside from his work on Drogba, Parkhurst was also brilliant snuffing out surges through the Impact's attacking third several times.
Ultimately, though, it was an ineffectual match for the clubs. Columbus needed three points to climb into the midsection of a tight race in the Eastern Conference, but a point from a more competitive showing than the team's road match against Philadelphia was the only consolation.
The New York Red Bulls visit MAPFRE Stadium next Saturday in another showdown of Eastern sides. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.