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Chance for Montreal fans to measure progress against top quality opposition …

MLS: Montreal Impact at Sporting KC
Nacho Piatti and Roger Espinoza come face to face in the 1-1 draw at Children’s Mercy Park just over a year ago. They will be expecting to meet again, Saturday night at Stade Saputo ...
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

They don’t come much tougher than the Western Conference leaders who’ve set the standard this season along with Atlanta United, a team they have already travelled to and defeated.

Optimism has risen in Quebec around its team, however three recent victories have been recorded against an under-strength Houston, who always lose at Stade Saputo anyway, and an Orlando City outfit (twice) falling faster than Joachim Lwow’s reputation.

So it’s a very real test of credentials for the Impact, a true barometer of progression. Or not.

MLS: Montreal Impact at FC Dallas
Stability at last? Rod Fanni (15), in action recently at Dallas, is forming an effective partnership with Rudy Camacho.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

From Sporting KC’s MLS road record (3-1-3) this season, it’s difficult to detect a chink of light for a Montreal side limping trepidatiously into form.

Just a solitary defeat on KC’s travels so far suggests resilience, their comeback victory over Houston last weekend shows determination and grit.

But their change in approach from early season, in road games is noteworthy. Eleven goals were scored in their first two away dates this season; there’s been only 5 (3 for, 2 against) in the last four!

Home or away SKC generally deploy 4-3-3 but it’s a more cautious version on the road. Impact have also been tighter in defence home and away recently as the central defensive pairing of Fanni and Camacho continue to gel.

A tight, tense encounter with few goals is expected, and despite Sporting’s MLS Player of the Month Felipe Guttierez still being sidelined after a hernia operation, there’s still formidable talent in opposition ranks in need of close attention. Guttierez had he remained healthy would possibly have forged ahead as KC’s top-scorer, however in his absence goals have been shared around the team.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Sporting KC vs FC Dallas
Top Marksmen for SKC this season, Johnny Russell celebrates with Daniel Salloi after the latter scored in the recent game with FC Dallas
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Hungarian Daniel Salloi is the main danger-man. His five goals to date have all been opening goals for his team. Keeping this son of former Hungarian international Istvan Salloi off the scoresheet will be a main priority. Johnny Russell, a 28 year-old Scottish international with English Championship experience at Derby County has also been influential, even if his goals have dried up lately. He also has five to his credit this season.

It’s a second chance this season for Evan Bush to record his first-ever “three shut-outs in-a-row” and emulate Donovan Ricketts as the only Montreal goalkeeper to ever manage this feat. Should Evan succeed, he will be the only Impact ‘keeper to complete the hat-trick in MLS games. One of Ricketts’ three successive blanks was a Canadian Championship game.

MLS: Montreal Impact at Orlando City SC
Bush in control. Evan in control of his most difficult moment in last week’s shut-out v Orlando City. Evan goes for his third shut-out in-a-row on Saturday night.
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

At the other end, should Anthony Jackson Hamel see action and score, he will eclipse Andres Romero and Felipe Martens (12 goals) and become the sixth highest MLS scorer in Impact MLS-history. Should he hit his first MLS hat-trick, he will draw level with Patrice Bernier and Dominic Oduro on 15.

This is likely to be the last Impact column I’ll write for a couple of weeks. It’s holiday time, and I’m off to Russia. Someone told me there was some decent football going on over there, so I’m off to check it out!

Got my prerestroika sorted from my glasnost, my rubles from my dollars, and a few nice Air BnB appointments (although not quite sure what to expect from one called “Stalin House”, but it looks nice). Match-tickets – check! Fan ID – check! Guidebooks – check! Google Translate – app downloaded.

I’m all set. See you soon Montreal !!!

Montreal Impact Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left)

GK: Evan Bush — Jukka Raitala, Rudy Camacho, Rod Fanni, Daniel LovitzSamuel Piette, Saphir Taider — Alejandro Silva, Ken Krolicki, Ignacio Piatti, ,— Matteo Mancosu

Sporting Kansas City Projected Starting XI (4-3-3), right to left)

GK: Tim MeliaGraham Zusi, Ike Opara, Graham Smith, Jaylin Lindsey — Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez Farres, Yohan Croizet — Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Gerso Fernandes.

Prediction: Sporting Kansas has a good record at Stade Saputo (3-2-1) and has not lost in any of their last six matches against Impact at any venue. However, I’m expecting a really close match, with few goals. Montreal is massively overdue a draw. Formbook says “No!”, but fate suggests “Yes!”

I’m going for 1-1, and Montreal’s first draw in 39 matches! That simply has to be some sort of record …

I would like to dedicate this article to Ron “Yorkie” Manley (1962-2018) a player I used to watch regularly at Glentoran Football Club in Belfast, and who became my friend. Taken way too soon. RIP, Yorkie.