Columbus Crew SC vs. Montreal Impact | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Preview
COLUMBUS CREW SC vs. MONTREAL IMPACT
MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
November 8, 2015 (Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, Conference Semifinals Leg 2)
5 pm ET (ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN1/RDS1 in Canada)
Montreal leads series 2-1 on aggregate
Columbus Crew SC will look to use their homefield advantage and overturn a one-goal deficit when they entertain the Montreal Impact in the second leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal Series at MAPFRE Stadium. The Impact got a late game-winner from Johan Venegas for a 2-1 first-leg victory and now carry that advantage to the Ohio capital. But Federico Higuain netted the opener, giving Crew SC a vital away goal in the tie. The Impact have won all three meetings between the clubs this season in league and cup play, winning 2-1 in Columbus on June 6.
REFEREE: Armando Villarreal.
AR1 (bench): Corey Parker; AR2 (opposite): Craig Lowry; 4th: Jorge Gonzalez
WARNINGS (suspended next yellow card): CLB: Harrison Afful, Gaston Sauro ... MTL: Ambroise Oyongo, Victor Cabrera, Didier Drogba
CLB 6 wins, 15 GF ... MTL 4 wins, 13 GF ... Ties 1
2015 HEAD-TO-HEAD: CLB 0 wins, 1 GF Ö MTL 2 wins, 5 GF Ö 0 ties
AT MAPFRE STADIUM:
6/6: CLB 1, MTL 2 (Higuain 91+ -- Tissot 55; Romero 79)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: CLB 0 wins, 1 GF; MTL 1 win, 2 GF; 0 ties.
COLUMBUS CREW SC
- Crew SC had their MLS Cup Playoffs losing streak extended to four matches with the late loss to the Impact in the first leg, their last postseason victory having coming in 2010 vs. Colorado in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
- "Part of the management of this is that 2-1 is a decent result. We got the road goal. We all know they count away goals, so it was a big goal and I think we're in a decent position," said Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter.
- Federico Higuain gave Crew SC the early lead, scoring his second career MLS Cup Playoffs goal, his first coming in the first leg of last year's Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. New England.
- "We just need to be patient and move the ball from side to side, get crosses in and get shots. The more shots you take and the more crosses you get into the box, I think we could have one or two chances that go in," said midfielder Tony Tchani.
- Columbus has advanced just once all-time in a two-leg series -- in 2008, when they defeated the then-Kansas City Wizards 3-1 on aggregate in the East semifinals (drawing 1-1 away, then winning 2-0 in Columbus).
- "The second goal was ridiculous, but it still puts us in a good position going home. We know that we need to win the game and if we don't win at home we don't deserve to go on," said Parkhurst.
- It was also the third victory in three meetings this year for the Impact vs. Crew SC. Montreal won 2-1 on June 6 in their only visit to MAPFRE Stadium.
- "Soccer is a game of mistakes and a game where every action makes a difference. So no matter how small that action is, it can have an effect on the game," said Berhalter. "We came out with the right intentions, we wanted to put Montreal on their heels, we wanted to play offensive soccer and we wanted to dominate the game."
- Crew SC also came into the postseason riding a two-match shutout streak, having not allowed a goal in the final 249 minutes of the regular season.
- "I thought for the most part, we neutralized their counter attack. They had a couple of chances here and there, but that's their main way of attacking. I thought for the most part we were pretty organized," said Crew SC defender Michael Parkhurst.
- The Impact won the second MLS Cup Playoffs game of their history -- the two wins coming over five days, both at Stade Saputo -- with the first-leg victory vs. Crew SC.
- The Impact have now won five consecutive matches over all competitions, after winning the final three games of the league campaign.
- "I am extremely pleased with our performance after playing three tough games in a week and we were able to find a way to win," said Impact interim head coach Mauro Biello. "Now, they have to beat us there and we'll go to Columbus ready for that game. We could have easily struggled after they scored the first goal, but we were able to lift our game and improve as the match went on."
- While the Impact are playing in their first two-leg tie in their MLS Cup Playoffs history, they have faced them 10 times over their MLS existence, winning seven -- including four earlier this year (three in the CONCACAF Champions League, one in the Canadian Championship).
- "We started off little flat both mentally and physically and it took us a little bit of time to get going after two emotional games earlier in the week," said goalkeeper Evan Bush. "But to fight back and get the result you need and go to Columbus with the advantage is something positive for us and we are happy with that."
- Patrice Bernier scored for a second consecutive playoff game in hitting for the opener, after collecting a goal and an assist in the Knockout Round win vs. Toronto FC.
- "What was important was to get the team back on track," Bernier said. "It helped, and we won the game. We're going [to Columbus] with a win, which is important for the morale and the confidence of the team." Said Biello: "Pat's been doing great. He's found his rhythm. He's been training well. Another big goal for us. In the end, everybody needs to be ready to contribute for this team. Whether you're on the bench or in the stands, when your number's called, you've got to be ready."
- Johan Venegas made his MLS Cup Playoffs debut, coming on for the final 17 minutes -- and scored his first career MLS postseason goal in netting the game-winner.
- "There weren't a ton of chances in this game," said Bernier. "The games are all tight in the playoffs and the return leg will be the same. We are pleased with our performance, but it's not over. We still have work to do, but collectively we are strong right now."