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Pregame: Battle of the Underperformers

Previewing the clash between two of the least in-form clubs of the MLS.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Montreal Impact
Nacho Piatti takes on Orlando defender Scott Sutter last August at Stade Saputo. Piatti scored a 48th min penalty as Montreal won the game 2-1.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Combined, Montreal Impact and Orlando City have gone 2-10-0 in the last 12 MLS games involving either club.

The slide has been more dramatic for the Lions, currently on a club record 5-game losing streak straight after coming off a 6 game winning run. Montreal conversely, has not had anything other than bad form in 2018.

Both sides will view this evening’s encounter very much as one they can win. It may not be a display of sparkling football, but it should prove an interesting battle all the same.

Montreal has steadied in that the horrendous goal leakage of recent memory has been addressed. The problem now is a chronic lack of firepower at the other end. Getting this balance right, with the current crop of players is proving quite the challenge to an experienced coaching staff, still learning the MLS ropes.

Clearly to win the game, Montreal will have to add to their tally of 1 goal over the last six games. A high tempo from the first whistle may offer dividends; in 14 MLS match-ups this season, Orlando has conceded the first goal on an astonishing 12 occasions!

For their part, the men from Florida will welcome back striker Dom Dwyer from injury, and that could spell bad news for Montreal – Dwyer (from his time at Sporting Kansas) has a career 9 goals against the Quebecers! The 27 year-old Englishman has shown good form this season with 7 goals from 8 games, and was a notable absentee throughout the latest poor run of defeats. He’s recovered from the abductor muscle injury that kept him sidelined, and returned at the weekend with a goal against Vancouver.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Vancouver Whitecaps
Orlando Danger-Man, Dom Dwyer (right) celebrates his goal at Vancouver at the weekend with Chris Mueller.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Other doubtfuls for Orlando include captain, centre-back and former Manchester United player, Jonathan Spector, CB Lamine Sane (knee), and defender Scott Sutter (knee). Of this triumvirate, Spector is most likely to regain his position following a concussion lay-off.

Will Johnson (hamstring) also left proceedings early, Saturday, but is expected to make tonight’s starting line-up.

Montreal is likely to retain the central defensive partnership of Camacho and Fanni, which would allow Raitala, back from Finnish international duty, to take over the left-back spot from Daniel Lovitz.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Montreal Impact
A return for Raitala could spell bad news for Daniel Lovitz.
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

How Remi Garde sets the rest of the side up, is open to conjecture. Piatti is expected to return, and Mancosu may have done enough on Saturday to earn the nod ahead of Jackson-Hamel. Jeisson Vargas, anonymous against Dallas, may be the casualty as Piatti resumes.

“It’s an opportunity to begin coming back,” said Garde of the back to back meetings with Orlando.

“Orlando City is a direct competitor for a spot in the play-offs. Obviously these are two very important games, especially with the first one at home. We need to look at things short-term. When you are in our situation, it’s a little presumptuous and illogical to look too far ahead. These two games are important. We need to focus on them.”

Yesterday at Montreal’s Nutrilait Centre, a visibly frustrated Orlando coach, Jason Kreis spoke of needing to address specific players about their performances.

Sound familiar?

MLS: Orlando City SC at Vancouver Whitecaps
Jason Kreis - currently going through similar trials to Remi Garde ...
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

“Those players got the message.” Everybody’s on-board here. Everybody wants, in the worst way, to win. You see signs of frustration and you see moments of lack of focus and those all come from a very honest place. Very honest places that we all feel very, very desperate to win,” said Kries, before closing with,

“Players need to be spoken to, need to be held accountable for those situations and then they need to be supported, and I think everybody understands that.”

Both coaches will be looking for honest performances this evening, but each would settle for narrow victory even if it does carry a large slice of fortune. What’s not in doubt though is, it’s all about the result!

Montreal Impact Projected Starting XI

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

GK: Evan BushChris Duvall, Rudy Camacho, Rod Fanni, Jukka RaitalaSamuel Piette, Saphir Taider —Alejandro Silva, Ignacio Piatti, Raheem EdwardsMatteo Mancosu

Orlando City Projected Starting XI

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

GK: Joe Bendik — Will Johnson, Chris Schuler, Amro Tarek, Donny Toia — Cristian Higuita, Uri Rosell — Chris Mueller, Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram — Dom Dwyer

Prediction: Thirty-five matches now since Montreal last played out a tie (36 in all competitions). Last MLS drawn game was almost exactly one year ago, on 17 June 2017. It was an evening game, just like tonight. Never guess who was in opposition .... Yip, Orlando City!!! The match ended 3-3.

History’s just got to repeat itself after all that. It’s in the stars!