Qui sont-ils? Aperçu du Match Contre Montreal
Another victory! The Chicago Fire defeated Philadelphia 1-0 with the game’s lone goal coming from Michael DeLeeuw’s persistence. The returning forward put a header on target and then knocked in his own rebound to ensure Chicago stayed undefeated in phase one of preseason. After a quick trip back to Chicago for some rest, the Fire hopped back on a plane to Florida for phase two. As some trialists come and go, Chicago enters the final stage of preseason with 25 healthy bodies available as they look towards a flurry of games over the coming week. Their first opponent is a familiar one as they take on the Montreal Impact on Wednesday at 10:00 CT, streamed on impactmontreal.com.
Montreal will be playing just its second preseason match of the year after taking on the University of South Florida nearly two weeks ago. That match saw their first round draft selection, Nick DePuy, notch a brace in an attempt to impress coach Mauro Biello who will be looking for someone to help Mancosu fill Drogba’s shoes. The Impact were just one of three teams to enter the playoffs last season with a negative goal differential and these preseason matches will be seen as a way to work out some of the kinks before a grueling three match start to the season.
The schedule creator did Montreal no favors as they travel to San Jose for opening day, take on the defending champions in Montreal week two, and have an early meeting with NYCFC in the garden state. While Biello told media that he sees the next couple of matches as an opportunity to build fitness, he will certainly see it as more than that as he looks to prove detractors wrong in his third season as head coach of Montreal. The Impact fell just short last season, losing to Toronto in the Conference final, and we could start to hear grumblings about Saputo’s favoritism if Montreal don’t get off to a winning start this season. While Chicago continue its winning ways or will the Impact stifle that undefeated preseason streak? Let’s see what’s in store for the Men in Red.
Possible Formation: 4-2-3-1; Bush; Camara, Ciman, Cabrera, Oyongo; Donadel, Bernardello; Oduro, Romero, Piatti; DePuy
Strengths: While Montreal’s offseason saw the expiration of contracts or declined options for nine players, only Didier Drogba and Johan Venegas featured regularly throughout the season. This team is largely the same group of core players that almost got them to the MLS cup final. They enter the preseason with cohesion, chemistry, and understanding in a way that Chicago does not. We fully expect Biello to roll out his patented 4-2-3-1 and preferred lineup to start the match off and then plug in some of the younger guys and trialists to see how they fit in.
Che Boludo (you knew it was coming): If Biello does indeed humor us by using the starting lineup we listed above, Montreal will feature four Argentines. We are fully convinced that preseason matches are won by the team featuring more guys from la Plata. In all seriousness, Piatti has done wonders to improve the league and we fully expect him to continue his dominance. A flat out “No, chance” from Saputo when Boca came calling might have made Piatti a bit sad in not returning to the Primera, but it sure as heck had to make him feel wanted. The 32 year old will show Chicago exactly what they are missing as he dominates the midfield on Wednesday.
Aresvois Didier: Heavy speculation surrounded the figure of Didier Drogba last season and it became apparent to the squad sometime during their playoff run that he wouldn’t be returning. Although he was a positive presence in the locker room, his late season antics in demanding starts became divisive. Montreal will enter Wednesday’s match with Michael Salazar, Nick DePuy, Dominic Oduro, Ballou Tabla, Anthony Jackson Hamel and Matteo Mancosu all vying for playing time. Biello was consistent in allowing players to win spots last season and all of those strikers will be looking to impress on Wednesday.
Weaknesses: As much as you would think that Montreal’s lineup is a sure bet, we have to remember that Chicago’s loan road victory last season came against this Impact squad. That negative goal differential mentioned above should also be worrying. Let’s take a look at where they could struggle.
Jambes fatiguées: When you look at Montreal’s collapse against Toronto, losing 5-2 in OT of the second leg after winning 3-2 in the first leg, one thing stands out in particular. The Impact look absolutely exhausted. As soon as that match went into OT everyone knew how it would end. The starting eleven for Montreal in that match had an average age of 30.5 (slightly skewed by the spry 24 year olds Oyongo and Cabrera), and they haven’t gotten any younger. Patrice Bernier will turn 38 before the season is over and replacements do not look to be on their way. Montreal brought in a few youngsters from the draft and the academy, but besides DePuy they do not look game ready. We’ll get a better look on Wednesday but squad depth could be a serious issue for Montreal. Saputo will need to invest in a few more messieurs to keep Donadel and Bernardello happy.
Je suis à l'aise: Along with the squad depth mentioned above, complacency and a level of comfort seemed to plague Montreal at times last year. The likes of Ciman, Piatti, Bush, etc. knew that if they were fit that they would feature. This air of comfort seems to revolve around Saputo, Biello, and the players. We can’t quite put our fingers on it, but there is something a bit off about the motivation in this side. There were a number of pressers where this came to light last season and we’ll have to see whether that culture has changed.
Prediction: Montreal 2-2 Chicago. The unbeaten streak continues to fuel the early enthusiasm surrounding this Chicago side. However, the gaping holes in the final third will be exposed once again.