Following a massive hiccup against the Philadelphia Union a few weeks ago, it appears Columbus Crew SC is back on course. Wins against Atlanta United and the New England Revolution at home have head coach Caleb Porter and his squad feeling good as it heads back on the road this week. The Black & Gold shift the focus north to the Canadian province of Quebec for a date with the Montreal Impact on Saturday afternoon.
Gone are the days of strikers Marco Di Vaio and Didier Drogba suiting up for the Impact. Nowadays, Montreal has a healthy mix of youth and experience that make up its roster. Ignacio Piatti remains the main playmaker, but the receives backup from role players like Maximiliano Urruti and Micheal Azira.
The Impact is off to a respectable start in 2019, gathering eight points in six matches. Let’s take a look at what Columbus can expect on Saturday when it faces the Impact.
Impact at a glance
Leading Scorer: Two players tied with 3 goals
Assists Leader: Maximiliano Urruti (2)
How they attack
Head coach Remi Garde is pretty straight forward in how he chooses to attack with his players. Montreal line up in a traditional 4-3-3 formation but with a few twists. The front three attackers stay relatively spaced out in the final third of the field with each player taking a corresponding zone.
Where the attack gets interesting is that Garde likes to utilize his fullbacks down the wings in hopes of creating an overload scenario to either side of the pitch. He traditionally looks to Daniel Lovitz to assist down the left-hand side, while Saphir Taider slides into the center of the park in the No. 10 role, looking to bounce on any second ball opportunities.
Where they struggle
So far this season, Montreal hasn’t demonstrated proficiency in building out of the back. Countless times this year, the Impact looked to build out quickly only to turn the ball over moments later.
This was especially evident during a match against Sporting Kansas City on March 30th.
One to watch
Holding midfielders don’t typically steal headlines in the newspapers, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be recognized. Impact midfielder Samuel Piette can be categorized as an unsung hero.
The 24-year-old stepped up to wear the captain’s armband and lead the team after Piatti went down with a knee injury earlier this season. The Canadian midfielder proves to be a solid force in the defensive third and possesses an ability to sniff out an opposing attack.
Piette has some offensive prowess as well, playing a key cog in the attack. According to WhoScored.com, he averages 52 pass attempts per game, completing 85% of his attempts. Piette isn’t going to win you games but will certainly help his team to victory.
How Crew SC win
Head coach Caleb Porter and his staff need to go at Montreal with precision and pace to be successful on Saturday afternoon. It’s likely the Black & Gold looks to build up quickly, using crisp precise passing to advance the ball up the field. Look for Brazilian winger Robinho to get a lot of touches during this game, as Montreal tends to struggle with players who possess a tremendous amount of speed.
Like the Impact, Columbus may look to create overloads in the offensive third. Expect to see fullback Hector Jimenez linking up with Pedro Santos quickly on the counter especially if Lovitz gets caught upfield in the attack.
Defensively Columbus cannot invite pressure from the Montreal attack. Despite Piatti being absent from the lineup on Saturday, players like Urruti, Taider, and Orji Okwonkwo can easily pick up the slack and score goals. The Black & Gold can’t switch off and take mental breaks otherwise the hosts could quickly gain the advantage and win their 2019 home opener.