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Massive Tactics: Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew SC

What to expect tactically from today’s mach at MAPFRE Stadium.

MLS: Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The first home match for Columbus Crew SC of 2018 comes a week after a 2-0 shock victory against the MLS Cup champions Toronto FC on their home turf. Today we have another Canadian team in the Montreal Impact making the trip to Columbus as Gregg Berhalter’s Crew SC look to repeat the success last week.

For our weekly lineup preview I will be outlining the projected starting XI for both squads and some of the tactical battles to watch out for in the match including key matchups and players to watch out for.

The Impact started the season with a 2-1 defeat to Vancouver Whitecaps. In a match that took a bit to get going, early first period yellow cards were offset by a trio of goals in the second half. Both team seemed rusty and cautious but finally broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute.

Montreal found a late goal through their target man Matteo Mancosu, but it was an unbalanced team that was on the field. With Ignacio Piatti on the left flank, he and Daniel Lovitz, the left back, combined for some very nice plays on the flank on the ball.

Off the ball, the Impact looked to press near the midfield line and not allow too much pressure for their questionable defense. Former Crew SC left back Jukka Raitala started the match as the left-sided center back and was rather shaky when called upon in the defensive third. Raheem Edwards has the ability to provide width from the right flank but showed he needs a lot more game time under his belt to be effective.

How will this translate to Columbus? With Montreal focusing on the left, right back Harrison Afful and central midfielder Artur will have a lot of work to do to thwart attacks, but otherwise the Crew look very good in this match, especially with how the team played last weekend.

Montreal 4-1-4-1 vs. Crew SC 4-2-3-1. <br>Impact will focus on the center while Crew look to exploit the flanks.
Montreal 4-1-4-1 vs. Crew SC 4-2-3-1.
Impact will focus on the center while Crew look to exploit the flanks.
Nathaniel Marhefka

Now onto Crew SC.

With such a great performance last week, I am anticipating no changes to the home starting XI. Right winger Crisitan Martinez and center back Lalas Abubakar may see a return to the bench once Niko Hansen, Mike Grella, or Josh Williams are back to health. Until then, the youngsters are going to keep trying to solidify their starting spots.

Against Toronto, Pedro Santos started on the left wing and Martinez started on the right wing. This changed part way through the match. We may see that again today if the wingers struggle to find space and maintain their creative play.

Defensively, Columbus will have to defend a large amount of individualistic play. Montreal sits in a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-3-3, with a holding midfielder (Samuel Piette) that screens the back four as the shuttle man (Saphir Taider) joins the midfield to the attack.

Offensively, Columbus will find a lot of space on the flanks in behind the fullbacks which will be the primary point of attack. The Impact locks down the center with a tight three-man midfield, so engaging through the center of the pitch may be difficult in the center third.

Columbus will stick to Berhalter’s tried-and-true 4-2-3-1 with Wil Trapp operating as an auxiliary center back while in possession, to enable the wingbacks Afful and Milton Valenzuela to venture forward into the second and third receiving line.

Come back after the match for a follow-up on what transpired. As always, stay Massive, friends.