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Pregame Buzz: Garde and Players Must Man-Up for Atlanta Trip ...

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Impact coach calls for more pride, commitment and fight ....

MLS: New York City FC at Atlanta United FC
Mercedes Benz Stadium - Over 50,000 fans will be in wait for the arrival of Montreal Impact on Saturday
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday brings together arguably the two most fabled coaches in MLS.

Level playing field then? Well, not quite: Tata Martino manages a good team, Remi Garde manages Montreal Impact.

The Argentinian in charge of Atlanta since their introduction to MLS has reached the heights; 4 Paraguayan titles, and three times Copa America beaten finalist, twice with his native Argentina, once with adopted Paraguay. And …. he’s managed Barcelona!

MLS: Montreal Impact at Atlanta United FC
Tata Martino - Atlanta’s widely experienced coach.
Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Garde has also managed at high-level, 22 UEFA international club competition matches (14 UCL & 8 Europa League) attest to that. He also has success in the Coupe de France, during three seasons as head coach to Olympique Lyon.

This weekend’s game has seasoned journalists preparing for original and novel ways to say, “trounced”, “hammered”, “annihilated” and so on. On paper, it’s no-contest. Montreal has taken 9 points from a possible last 51, Atlanta conversely has 16 points from its latest 6 games and is rightfully considered among a bunch of favourites for MLS-Cup 2018.

But we all know football doesn’t quite work like that. Often the form-book can fly out the window, although admittedly even the most optimistic Ultra will be fearing the worst and craving respectability this weekend.

The Impact squad needs to find itself. An astute football man, if Remi Garde questions attitudes and commitment as he did last week, then that’s a fundamental problem that probably needs harsh words and action to correct. It may not be fixable, without even more personnel changes, although I still think the French coach will work it out, given the right levels of support and resources.

If Bleu/Blanc/Noir bring the right mindset onto the field against Atlanta and if their hosts are below par, perhaps a little complacent, then surely embarrassment can be avoided. A couple of pretty big “IF’s” there!

Should some recent performances be mirrored, then you really do fear the worst. I admit, it is hard to be optimistic about the next 90 mins at The Mercedes Benz Stadium.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Montreal Impact
Busy afternoon ahead for Finnish international, Raitala.
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Thoughts of Montreal’s makeshift defence trying to cope with another clever and spritely attacking trio of young South Americans (hint, hint) seven days after conceding 4 against similar opponents, are enough to ensure sleepless nights for some in the travelling camp.

Tata Martino likes his teams to press and attack. He has the components in DP’s; Almiron, Barco and Martinez (and others) to make his philosophy work. If there’s some solace for Montreal, recent reflections have hinted at Five Stripes’ profligacy in front of goal. It’s not a reliable strand of hope to cling onto however, things like that always click into place one day.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Los Angeles Galaxy
League’s top scorer Jozef Martinez (6 goals) will cause problems for Montreal on Saturday ...
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If that day is Saturday, Evan Bush will find himself as over-worked as he was last week in Montreal.

Atlanta Projected Starting XI

(3-4-1-2, right to left)

GK: Brad GuzanLeandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Chris McCannJulian Gressel, Darlington Nagbe, Jeff Larentowicz, Greg GarzaMiguel AlmironEzequiel Barco, Josef Martinez

Impact Projected Starting XI

(4-4-2, right to left)

GK: Evan Bush — Michael Petrasso, Rudy Camacho, Jukka Raitala, Daniel Lovitz — Alejandro Silva, Samuel Piette, Saphir Taider, Ken KrolickiJeisson Vargas, Ignacio Piatti

Prediction –Prepared to be proven horribly wrong, but I expect a comfortable home victory, with Impact not getting within two goals of currently the best side in MLS.

Man in the Middle -

Saturday’s ref is Hilario Grajeda.

The 51 year-old is one of MLS’ longest-serving referees, taking charge of his first game in July 2004 between Dallas Burn and Kansas City Wizards.

Nine years later he was named as MLS Referee of The Year and became the first ref to try out “Ref Cam” (a head-mounted camera that gives fans the opportunity to see the game from the referee’s eyes) in the All-Star game between MLS and AS Roma.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Colorado Rapids
Hilario Grajeda - In charge of this one.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Mr Grajeda has refereed Montreal Impact three times on their travels. Each time the match resulted in home victory, with a combined Montreal goals for and against of 1-9.

The last time a Montreal crowd had the pleasure of Mr Grajeda’s company was in the 0-1 defeat to NYCFC at Stade Saputo last September. This was his sixth visit to Montreal (2-2-2).

He’s never red-carded a Montreal player. In fact, the only player ever red-carded in a Montreal game refereed by Hilario Grajeda was Logan Emory of Toronto FC, at the Olympic Stadium, as Impact recorded their first-ever MLS victory (2-1), way back in April 2012.