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Montreal Impact vs Columbus Crew : Preview with Patrick Murphy of the Massive Report

A lot has changed for both teams since their last meeting at Stade Saputo.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

One team is looking to stay in the playoff race and look up while another is already eliminated from that same race and has been looking at the 2015 season. The last meeting between the Columbus Crew and the Montreal Impact saw the bleu-blanc-noir punish the Crew with a 2-0 win.

Patrick Murphy took the time to answer my questions and you can read my answers to his questions right here.

Mount Royal Soccer: Montreal has not totally been bad in the last few games. Though Piatti is not likely to start or play vs the Crew, the Crew needs to push up the standings with a big win at home. How is the team's current form?

Massive Report: Since the middle of July, the Black and Gold are 6-2-2. They've had big home wins over the LA Galaxy, the Houston Dynamo, and Chivas USA, as well as a road win over the New England Revolution and a tie at the Dynamo after trailing 2-0 at halftime.

The team seems to be trending in the right direction as we approach crunch time in the regular season. Of course, there have been games mixed in, like the loss to the Impact, where they aren't able to find the net or something just doesn't go right. The coaches and players are confident with how things have gone, they just need to keep the train on the tracks in order to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

MRS: The Crew recently signed Austrian defender Emanuel Pogatetz but it does not seem that he will be playing this season. Is the staff confident in the current back four to take care of business?

MR: There's a few things on this. There is no reason to believe Pogatetz won't play at some point this year. There was the MLS article with the headline stating he likely wouldn't, but the article said nothing about it and Berhalter called out the writer, who quickly defended himself as he does not write his own headlines.

Now that that's cleared up, here are the issues with Pogatetz. The man nicknamed Mad Dog came in on a free transfer, so he was not with a club previously. Although he kept himself in good shape, soccer game shape is different. Berhalter said he was able to do everything in training after just a couple of days, but they have really pushed him with fitness drills to get him game ready. Most people who cover the team, myself included, believed Pogatetz would make the game day 18-man roster last week, but he did not. It would not be surprising to see him on the bench this week.

To answer your last question, I do think Berhalter and the staff are happy with the current back line. After the poor first half in Houston, Berhalter pulled Eric Gehrig in favor of Hecto Jimenez. He said in the lead up to last week's New England contest that there may be changes, but there were none. On Thursday, Berhalter stated that Tyson Wahl had done really well taking over for Giancarlo Gonzalez and partnering Michael Parkhurst in the center of defense. They are saying all the right things about the defensive unit and the data is there to back it up with three shutouts in the last six games.

MRS: There isn't a real bonafide top striker though Higuain is a star but more as a playmaker. What is the Crew's trademark as per the way it score goals? Is the Impact in trouble or does it suit Klopas' team?

MR: Columbus fans have been clamoring all year for a real goal scorer to play up top. The Crew have run through Dominic Oduro, Jairo Arrieta, rookie Adam Bedell, and second-year pro Aaron Schoenfeld while even going with no striker and playing Higuain as a false nine. All this and the Black and Gold are still on pace to score more goals than they have since the MLS Cup winning year of 2008.

What has occurred recently is the inclusion of the outside midfielders in the scoring department. Of their top four goal scorers, three of them normally play on the outside and the other one is Higuain. The "wingers" have combined for 21 of the Crew's 41 goals this season, which is a pretty high rate considering it took a while to get them going.

I don't know if this plays into any team's hand, as their are dangerous players up the middle and on either side, but Montreal shut down this attack at home. In Columbus' last match, the Revolution conceded chances, but the only goal came from an Higuain free kick (although Justin Meram did earn a penalty kick). It will be interesting to see how either side plays it on Saturday night.

Since the middle of July, the Black and Gold are 6-2-2. They've had big home wins over the LA Galaxy, the Houston Dynamo, and Chivas USA, as well as a road win over the New England Revolution and a tie at the Dynamo after trailing 2-0 at halftime.

The team seems to be trending in the right direction as we approach crunch time in the regular season. Of course, there have been games mixed in, like the loss to the Impact, where they aren't able to find the net or something just doesn't go right. The coaches and players are confident with how things have gone, they just need to keep the train on the tracks in order to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.