Montreal Impact vs Columbus Crew Game Preview: 3 Questions with A.J. Jobe

Jamie Sabau

After a much needed two week break, the Montreal Impact will travel to Columbus to face the Crew on Saturday night. The boys in blue are eager to return to action and keep their place on top of the Eastern Conference mountain.

Heading into this matchup, the Impact sit in first place in the East, one little point ahead of the New York Energy Drinks but with four games in hand. The Crew are on the outside looking in. They sit in 7th place in the East, trailing SKC by 5 points for the final ticket to the postseason dance.

Coach Marco does have some big lineup decisions to make heading into this matchup:

  • Daniele Paponi is back from injury and ready to play. He should return to the starting lineup next to Marco Di Vaio. This means that Andrew Wenger, who has played well recently, will return to the bench as a substitute.
  • Alessandro Nesta is suspended after having headbutted SKC's Claudio Bieler. Hassoun Camara will probably move into middle to partner with Matteo Ferrari.
  • Dennis Iapichino is uncertain to play after having picked up a knock in training. If he is unable to go, Jeb Brovsky will probably start on the left side with Karl Ouimette getting a start on the right side.

To help get you ready for this game, Mount Royal Soccer has asked A.J. Jobe, Columbus correspondent for the Around The League Soccer podcast, to give us an inside look at this week's enemy.

Which Columbus Crew players have been named on the All Star Game ballot? Out of those players, which ones actually stand a chance of making the team?

Columbus has 4 active players on the All-Star ballot. Andy Gruenebaum, Chad Marshall, Federico Higuain and Dominic Oduro all find themselves in contention to be selected against AS Roma. In reality, even though Oduro has scored more goals, the only player that has a chance to make this team is Higuain. Marshall has been recovering from an injury and Gruenebaum hasn't performed to the standards he set for himself in 2012. Higuain is easily the Crew's best player and has the ability to control the ball in the center of the park, drawing extra defenders and thus creating space for players around him. Even with Columbus's struggles, it would be surprising to not see Higuain selected to represent the Crew in Kansas City.

The Crew currently sit 7th in the East. They are 5 points away from SKC who currently hold the final playoffs spot. Last season, the Crew just missed out on the postseason dance by 1 point. How real are the Crew's playoff chances or is the team headed for another heartbreak finish?

The Crew's playoff chances are slipping away very quickly in an Eastern conference that has improved immensely. Crew General Manager Mark McCullers is adamant in his stance that Columbus has the talent to challenge for a title, but we have yet to see that talent shine through. I believe the team is actually a player or two away from having the personnel to contend for the playoffs and with the season-ending injury to Eddie Gaven, the outlook is not improving. The Crew lack a big striker to hold the ball up top and this is a huge problem. Opposing teams need only to get physical with the Columbus forwards to make the Crew attack fall to pieces. The club says that they are in the market for an attacking player but if they cannot make multiple changes to this team in the near future they will dig themselves a hole that might be too steep to climb out of.

Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta don't seem to be having the same impact as last season. Were they just a flash in the pan or will they return to that dominant form of 2012?

Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta have amazing talent that could rival most players in Major League Soccer, but at the moment they are expected to carry this offense and it is simply too much to ask. Arrieta doesn't have the physicality to play as a lone-striker in this league and that has where he has found himself more often than not. Higuain seems to become frustrated when things start to go wrong in the match and tries too hard to take the game over himself. It is hard to blame him however, as the midfield is non-existent in Columbus right now. The most effective midfielder that the Crew have had this season is Dominic Oduro and he is a striker that they have placed in the right midfield spot because nobody else has stepped up to prove that they can handle the position. Crew fans are wondering if the team's struggles are a personnel problem that can be rectified in the summer transfer window or if these issues stem from Robert Warzycha's system. Fans have started to protest against Coach Warzycha and rest assured that if things don't turn around quickly, the call to fire the manager will become much louder.

SCOUTING REPORT: Who should the Montreal Impact fear the most on game day and why?

Montreal need to look no further than Federico Higuain to find the player that they need to focus on to ensure success in Columbus. If Montreal can shut down Higuain's passing lanes early and score before the Crew you will see Higuain become frustrated. Once frustrated, Higuain refuses to pass the ball as frequently and will take long distance shots that have no hope of beating a goalkeeper like Perkins. If Montreal is in control of the match after an hour of play the Crew attack will take itself out of the game.

Starting XI (with formation)

4-5-1

Gruenebaum,

Williams, Marshall, Glauber, Wahl

Oduro, Tchani, Sanchez, Higuain, Speas

Arrieta

Final score prediction

2-0 Montreal. The Crew's struggles at home will continue against a Montreal side that, quite frankly, is more talented and managed more effectively.

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