Another round where both teams need a win to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Somebody has to claim the sixth spot in the East and Martin Tomszak is back to have a look at the Impact.
Qui sont-ils? Aperçu de l’ Drogba Derby
The Chicago Fire didn’t just battle Orlando’s soccer team but also had to face Tropical Storm Erika when they were in Florida last Saturday and they were happy to take a point after serious rain delays and an Orlando onslaught in the last ten minutes of the match. This week they continue to rack up their air miles as they travel north of the border to face Montreal in a crucial battle for the final playoff spot. Both teams need this one and the prospect of Didier Drogba featuring will add a bit of extra spice to the match up. Unfortunately that extra spice will still make for a bland match with both sides decimated by injuries and international call ups.
Montreal Form Guide (Last 5 Matches All Competitions): L-L-L-D-L
Previous match: A 2-1 away loss to Toronto
Formation in the last match: 4-2-3-1; Kronberg; Oyongo, Ciman, Cabrera, Toia; Donadel, Mallace; Tissot, Vanegas, Romero; Oduro
Weaknesses: Typically we like to start out on a positive note in these previews. For this match this isn’t an option. There are a few major factors impacting the possibility of any strengths the Impact might have and they must be covered first.
Inner Turmoil: Montreal is at an all-time low. After a string of three successive losses, including a loss to Vancouver in the Canadian Championship final and a loss to Toronto, Joey Saputo had enough and fired head coach and Fire legend Frank Klopas. Montreal had their sights set on winning the Canadian domestic competition in order to gain entry into the CONCACAF Champions League and possibly repeat this year’s deep run but with Didier Drogba on the side. It didn’t work out, and then they lost in the league to bitter rivals Toronto in embarrassing fashion. To add injury to insult, Montreal’s marquee signing missed out on both key matches with a toe injury sustained in training, all after failing to impress in his debut loss to Philadelphia. With results going against them and time slipping away, newspapers across Canada are claiming that Montreal are the new Toronto of MLS, a label that they hate for numerous reasons. The air surrounding the city of Montreal is foul indeed.
Injuries, Call Ups, Suspensions, Oh My: If things weren’t bad enough, when the two sides meet at Stade Saputo Montreal, neither will not have their ideal starting eleven available. In fact they won’t even have their less than ideal starting eleven available. Laurent Ciman, Kyle Bekker, Johan Vanegas, Ambroise Oyongo, Maxime Crepeau, and Eric Miller have all been called up for international duty while Hassoun Camara, Patrice Bernier, Kenny Cooper, and Cameron Porter are all on the injury list for Saturday. Victor Cabrera has also been suspended. Montreal has come out publically saying that DPs Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti are both “options” for this match but this has to be just a smoke screen. Even if Piatti took part in training this week he has had a calf contusion for almost a month. He will not be fully match fit and will certainly not feature for the full 90 that Montreal need him for. As for Drogba, he clearly is nowhere near being match fit either.
Montreal has shown a lack of creativity when Piatti is not playing and the fact that most of the central midfielders still available for Saturday play a holding role will not improve Montreal’s chances going forward. They cannot simply continue to rely on the tactic of hoofing it forward to Oduro and hoping for the best, because it clearly isn’t working. The amount of times that announcers yell “Oduro shoots it wide” during the season would surely make for a great drinking game, but has not helped the Impact in solidifying that final playoff spot. The problem is intensified because there aren’t many other attacking options to remedy the situation. Montreal could gamble with Canadian youth international Anthony Jackson-Hammel (eight appearances this season), or Jamaican youngster Romario Williams (one appearance this season), the only other available “Forwards” on the Impact roster.
Defensively speaking Montreal is a mess as well. They haven’t conceded that many goals recently (eight in five matches) but they have conceded poor goals. Man marking, communication at the back, picking up late runners, and having the heart to finish out matches have all been lacking. When you take into account that half the back line will be new this weekend, these problems are only compounded. We are honestly at a point where the squad is so depleted that analyzing the last few matches does not even offer much of a glimpse into Saturday’s contest. This all seems like a nightmare from Football Manager, but it is in fact a reality for Montreal and interim coach Mauro Biello.
Strengths: When you are winless in six, have lost six consecutive matches, are missing eight of your ideal starters and have fired your head coach there isn’t much going your way. However, we try to be objective in these previews and if there is a glimmer of hope we will extract it and analyze it.
In truth it cannot possibly get worse for Montreal and that has to be a blessing. Even if they lose this match there are enough excuses to quickly brush it off due to an interim coach, games in hand, and all of the other aforementioned negatives. That being said, the young kids and fringe players really have a chance to prove themselves in this match. The club is in a state of transition, the senior players have shown that they cannot get it done over the last two months, and contracts are on the line. If the hope of unity and strength in times of adversity is proportionate to the amount of adversity being faced, then Montreal certainly has a chance.
Prediction: Chicago Fire fans’ heads will be telling them this is the best opportunity for a win that they’ve had in a while, which naturally means their gut will be telling them this well be a loss. Let’s split the difference, Le Impact will take their motto of “Tous Pour Gagner” seriously but fall just short while the Fire will squander their chance to climb in the standings. Chicago 2-2 Montreal. Iggy and Nyarko to open the scoring, Oduro to grab one back before Didier Drogba comes on in the 80th minute to notch his first MLS goal against a side that he “almost” joined.