Montreal is in 3rd place in the East (with two games in hand over first place SKC) and could use a very strong performance to show the rest of the league that their 4-1-1 record is well deserved. Failing to play dominating Soccer at any point yet this season, Coach Marco's men have relied on a bend but don't break defensive mentality that cannot last forever. Either they step up and start taking control of games, especially in the later stages or wins will start to become a thing of the past.
Since most of the first team was rested on Wednesday against TFC, Saturday will mark the end of a 13 day ‘rest' period in between games for most of the lineup. A bit of rust can be expected from the Impact but both teams should put on a good show, especially since this will be a nationally televised game.
To get you ready for this weekend's battle, we invited our friend Ryan from Hot Time In Old Town to help give you an inside look in to this weekend's opponent.
The Fire are currently in 7th place in the East. They also have a -6 goal differential. I don't think that anyone expected to see the Fire struggle this much out of the gate. What's wrong in the Windy City? How much of this decline is linked to the losses of Federico Puppo, Dominic Oduro & Alvaro Fernandez? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
You are correct to say that the Fire fans did not predict this start. A rash of injuries and under performance form a variety of players has gotten the team off on the wrong foot. Fortunately, players are getting healthy and the team seems to be finding some familiarity with each other now. The Men in Red come into the Impact matchup having won 2 out of the last 3.
Right now it looks like the Duka/Oduro trade worked out in favor of the Crew. Hopefully, as the season progresses, Dilly Duka will step up and not make fans regret the trade. Federico Puppo didn't really ever contribute to the Fire. The team has arranged loans for him until his contract is up so he won't be back in the Windy City. The Fernandez move was a popular one and well liked by fans. Problem is, the player didn't really show up during his time in Chicago. He too is out on loan. Barring a very unforeseen circumstance his time in the Windy City is over too.
Have the Fire had any breakout players in the early part of the season (someone playing above expectations)? If so, who and what do they bring to the table?
Right now I wouldn't say that any player has really stepped it up and surprised. Sean Johnson has been the best overall in my opinion, but he's a household name now so that's not really a surprising pick. Maybe that is part of our early struggles too- no one has stepped up and made us say their name over and over.
In the past 3 weeks, the defense has risen to the occasion. Jalil Anibaba and Austin berry have really settled down at center back. Partick Nyarko returned from injury last week and provided a much needed spark to get the team a win against the Crew. Jeff Larentowicz is beginning to play better too. All in all, I would say the past few weeks have brought improvements in a few areas but no real breakthrough young players- yet.
Who do the Impact have to fear the most on Saturday and why?
I am going to say Nyarko. Normally I would be inclined to say Chris Rolfe or Sherjill MacDonald. MacDonald has not been good at all this year, and Rolfe has not been able to get going. If Nyarko can come in and create chances like he did in the 2nd half last week, the team will be in a good spot. The problem is players putting those cahnces in the back of the net. The Fire won last week 1-0, but in reality it could have easily been 3 or 4 to zero. Those missed opportunities will come back to haunt the team at some point if we continue to fail at converting our chances.
Predicted formation and starting XI:
Johnson, Thompson, Anibaba, Berry, Segares, Pause, Larentowicz, Lindpere, Rolfe, Nyarko, MacDonald