Montreal Impact vs. Columbus Crew SC | 2017 MLS Match Preview
Montreal Impact vs. Columbus Crew SC
2017 MLS Regular Season
Stade Saputo - Montreal, Quebec
Saturday, May 13 - 5 p.m. ET
WATCH: TVA Sports in Canada, MLS LIVE in US
Almost exactly a year after giving MLS one of its strangest events of 2016, the Montreal Impact and Columbus Crew SC meet in Montreal's Olympic Park on Saturday, both teams in need of consistency and points.
The defending Eastern Conference champions at the time, Crew SC were up 3-1 and appeared to be well on their way to a rout of the Impact at MAPFRE Stadium on May 7, 2016 when a foul on Justin Meram earned a penalty kick. Star striker Kei Kamara reached for the ball, hoping to complete a hat trick with a successful conversion, but playmaker Federico Higuain insisted on taking the spot kick despite lengthy and animated conversations between the two players and their teammates.
Higuain converted, but Columbus crumbled. Montreal would storm back from the 4-1 deficit to earn a 4-4 draw, and afterwards Kamara unloaded his frustrations about his "selfish" teammate in some choice quotes to the media. He was traded to New England less than a week later, and Crew SC would go on to miss the playoffs. Meanwhile the Impact navigated their way to the postseason and fell agonizingly short of MLS Cup 2016 via a wildly memorable Eastern Conference Championship series with Toronto FC.
They probably won't produce eight goals and a PK squabble again this time. But with contrasting tactical philosophies, top-caliber attacking weapons and urgency fueled by the uneven starts to their seasons, these two clubs could create some fireworks.
IMFC have been a picture of inconsistency over the first two months of the campaign. The Quebec side have yet to experience consecutive wins or losses, and have dropped points at home while also grabbing unexpected ones on the road.
Last week's 1-0 win at D.C. United marked a positive breakthrough, however, as both their first clean sheet and first road win of 2017. Teenage Homegrown Ballou Tabla scored the winner, his second goal of the year and the latest step forward in his promising development since signing an MLS deal in October.
He looks likely to be called upon again vs. Columbus, as forwards Matteo Mancosu and Anthony Jackson-Hamel are currently sidelined by injury. So winger Dominic Oduro is expected to fill in at the No. 9 role again, supported by Tabla and star playmaker Ignacio Piatti.
But the biggest question for Montreal this weekend? Whether coach Mauro Biello will give much-anticipated new arrival Blerim Dzemaili his Impact debut after he arrived from Italian side Bologna on Tuesday.
“I think I’m ready for [Saturday's game],” the Swiss international midfielder said, “but the coach will decide that.”
International duty: None.
Injury report: OUT: M - Shamit Shome (foot injury), M - Andres Romero (hamstring injury), D - Victor Cabrera (ankle injury), F - Matteo Mancosu (thigh injury 4/29, out 6-8 weeks) - REPORT, F - Anthony Jackson-Hamel (undisclosed injury)
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Evan Bush (GK) - Ambroise Oyongo, Laurent Ciman, Hassoun Camara, Chris Duvall - Hernan Bernardello, Marco Donadel - Ignacio Piatti, Patrice Bernier, Ballou Tabla - Dominic Oduro
Notes: The Impact have only won twice in their last nine regular-season home games (3L-4D) and have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of them, conceding an average of 2.1 goals per game ... Montreal allowed D.C. United to direct just two shots on target last week ... In support of victims of the recent flooding across Quebec, the club will donate $1 to the Canadian Red Cross for every ticket sold for the Columbus match.
Columbus Crew SC
Saturday marks the second straight meeting with Canadian opposition for Crew SC, who hosted Toronto at MAPFRE Stadium on Wednesday. The Ohio side led for most of the evening via an early Federico Higuain penalty kick, only to concede two late goals to TFC substitute Tosaint Ricketts and fall 2-1.
The setback was Columbus' fifth loss in their last seven games, a slump that has seen them fall from their previous perch atop the Eastern Conference standings. And it gets harder: They now face three straight road games, the outset of a stretch in which nine of their next 13 matches are away from home.
"We weren't killers. We didn't find a way to keep a clean sheet, and that's on all of us," said Meram after Wednesday's gut-punch loss. "It's time to face reality and get our road boots on and roll up our sleeves, because it's going to be a tough stretch."
On the brighter side, Crew SC's primary attacking weapons are in solid form. Meram has already bagged four goals and four assists, striker Ola Kamara has six strikes to his credit and Wednesday's Panenka PK ran Higuain to four goals and four helpers as well.
- Suspended: None
- Int'l Duty: None
- Injuries: OUT – D Gaston Sauro (left PCL surgery, out for season), M Ben Swanson (right ankle surgery, out for season), M Artur (left wrist surgery); QUESTIONABLE: GK Brad Stuver (right elbow strain)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Zack Steffen – Hector Jimenez, Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah, Jukka Raitala – Wil Trapp, Nicolai Naess – Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram – Ola Kamara
Notes: Crew SC have lost five of their last six away league games and have failed to score in two straight road games ... Goalkeeper Zack Steffen saved Jozy Altidore's penalty kick on Wednesday, the first PK stop of his MLS career ... Head coach Gregg Berhalter will return to the technical area in Montreal after serving a one-game suspension for kicking a ball onto the field in anger after a foul on Niko Hansen during Columbus' win over New England last weekend; assistant Josh Wolff deputized in his absence vs. TFC.
Montreal and Columbus' short history together is a relatively balanced one, though the Impact are unbeaten in their last five regular-season games against Crew SC, outscoring them 11-5 over those matches.
- Overall: Crew SC 6 wins, 19 goals; Impact 5 wins, 19 goals; 3 draws
- In Montreal: Impact 4 wins, 11 goals; Crew SC 1 win, 4 goals; 1 draw
- Referee: Silviu Petrescu
- AR1: Daniel Belleau
- AR2: Andrew Bigelow
- Fourth official: Mark Kadlecik