The Columbus Crew’s come from behind victory against Chicago on Wednesday earned them a point in the standings and a boost in spirit. Whether or not they can capitalize on the momentum remains to be seen. The Black & Gold seek to end a 10-match winless run on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium. The opponent is fellow Eastern Conference club, Montreal Impact (9-10-3), who currently sit fifth in the playoff standings.
Impact at a glance
Form: W-W-L-L-L (9-10-3, 30 points, 5th Eastern Conference)
Leading Scorer: Saphir Taider (7)
Assists Leader: Maximiliano Urruti (5)
Montreal defeated Columbus back in April during a 1-0 affair at Stade Saputo. The lone goal came from a defensive breakdown between Josh Williams and Jonathan Mensah, which led to a steal by Maxi Urruti and a stellar finish from Harry Novillo. If you can believe it, the Crew were in first place at that time. It has been a drastic fall from grace since.
Last season, the two clubs exchanged home wins. One historical leg-up for Columbus is that the Crew are 8-1-2 at home versus the Impact, including unbeaten in the last five contests.
Montreal comes into Saturday’s match on the decline, having lost three in a row, including the a 2-0 defeat at the hands of their Canadian rival, Toronto FC. The Impact will be without two key cogs to their squad, as defensive minded midfielder, Samuel Piette was injured in the Toronto clash. And Ignacio Piatti, the Impact’s maestro has been sidelined since May. Piatti is the Federico Higuain of the Impact. In what is said to be his final season in Quebec, the midfield extraordinaire has only featured in five matches this season, scoring three goals. It is a tough personnel loss for Montreal, so the fact that they are firmly entrenched in the playoff race speaks to how determined they have played.
Of the leagues current 14 playoff teams, Montreal has the worst goal-differential by far, with a negative ten. Most of which came at the hands of Sporting Kansas City early in the season, as the Impact were trounced 7-1. The negative goal-differential is actually tied for fourth worst in the entire league. Their 36 goals-against is fifth worst in the league. Given the Crew’s scoring woes this season, perhaps a home battle with Montreal is what the doctor ordered for Columbus.
Who Makes an Impact
Montreal is coached by former Aston Villa boss, Remi Garde. In his second season in charge, the Impact are scrapping out results. He regularly trots out an attack minded 4-3-3 formation, which yields both goals for and goals against in bunches.
United States Men’s National Team member, Daniel Lovitz features for Montreal. The left back saw time with the USMNT Gold Cup squad earlier this summer and is the go-to outside back for Montreal as well. Ohio native, Evan Bush, who has been Montreal’s goalkeeper of choice the last five-and-a-half seasons, tallied 10 clean sheets last year and already has 6 in 2019.
Orji Okwonkwo is a young Nigerian forward who brings strength, pace, and athleticism to the Blue & Black attack. He possesses all of the youthful exuberance you would expect from a 21-year-old, and he is not afraid to rip a shot at goal. The Crew’s backline will need to be mindful of the speedy gunner.
How the Crew Win
The Crew can win if they are able to ride this small bit of momentum from the Chicago match on Wednesday. Two of the Crew’s newest acquisitions made their debuts (Romario Williams & Luis Diaz) and it paid immediate dividends.
Another recent addition, Eloy Room is expected to make his first start for the Black & Gold on Saturday. The new man between the pipes is expected to make an instant impact against Montreal (pun intended). If Room can minimize or eliminate the consistent errors we have seen this season by the backline, it would go a long way in securing a victory and inevitably turning the tides of this tumultuous season.
We shouldn’t expect every game to be as phenomenal for Diaz and Williams, but the duo brought energy to the Crew and a game just three days later should allow the adrenaline rush to continue. Regardless of the score, I would like to see Porter roll out the two-forward lineup again, as we saw in the dying moments against Chicago. Zardes has been on an island all season long, but the 4-2-3-1 has continued to be the formation of choice for Coach Porter. Perhaps, the occasional shift to a 4-4-2 would help make the squad less predictable and more potent of an attack.
Bonus Info: Evan Bush has given up 25 penalty kick goals on 29 shots. Perhaps, a Pedro Santos foul suffered Saturday night will garner a 26th?!