Like snowbirds, the Impact head south once again to Florida, a home from home for successive Montreal squads for several pre-seasons now.
There can be no excuses around heat or humidity this weekend, in a climate they have grown accustomed to, unlike what we heard emerging from Houston last Saturday. To be fair to the Impact coaching staff and players, those excuses didn’t come from them. They tended to be mooted by others.
One player looking forward to the contest more than most is talisman, Ignacio Piatti. Of Piatti’s 64 MLS goals exactly 12.5% have come against Orlando City. There isn’t another opponent that’s consistently suffered against the Argentine maestro as Saturday’s hosts. He’s grabbed the Lions by their mane and led them a merry dance, scoring three times last season alone, while his pals at the back kept the sheet clean in both encounters.
And now with three consecutive wins over Orlando in the bag, and unbeaten against the Lions in five, there’s every reason for optimism in this third game of their six-match travel odyssey.
Piatti was kept quiet by the Dynamo last weekend subscribing to the popular theory; “Stop Piatti and you stop the Impact.” But despite producing a performance that never at any time hit the heights, Montreal almost came away from a perennially dreaded venue with a point.
Saphir Taider might be on a crusade to disprove the “Stop Piatti ....” theory, and with a couple of goals and an assist from the opening brace of fixtures, he could be succeeding. Defensively Montreal looks more organized too, but the temptation to switch-off must be resisted for a full 90+ minutes. We’ve seen encouraging signs, but not quite the finished article yet.
Orlando had a hugely disappointing season in 2018, finishing bottom of the pile in the East, after a good start. Their first two games were lost, but then a run of six straight wins naturally lifted the mood. It proved false optimism however as 9 defeats on-the-bounce followed, including the back to back defeats by Montreal.
As things stand Orlando City have won only 2 of their last 27 matches in MLS, however there’s been signs of life from their opening games in 2019; coming from 2-down to claw back a draw at home to NYCFC on opening day, then last week avoiding defeat for the first time in 15 road games. They could have won at Chicago too, the Fire equalizing Dom Dwyer’s opening goal, only in the fifth minute of added time.
Dwyer is a player who’s often caused problems for the Impact with a scoring record against IMFC similar to Piatti’s against Orlando. That spell may have been broken last season by a failure to register in 180 mins against the Impact, but the Englishman could be inspired by the inclusion of new marquee signing Luis Nani, the former Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon star. Nani has two assists in his first two games, and the pair combined for the goal at Chicago last weekend. Impact be warned.
Swedish Champion Signs
Just this week Robin Jansson arrived from AIK Stockholm. He’s likely to face the Impact should international clearance papers process swiftly enough. An interesting character is the six feet, two inch centre-back, whose winning goal in the last league fixture of 2018 clinched a first Swedish title in 9 years for his club.
Jansson (27) a late developer, was a surprise signing from lower leagues by AIK as cover last April. His rise was meteoric, claiming a regular slot in their championship side and finishing the year winning a full international cap for Sweden against Finland.
Novillo, Okwonkwo or Choiniere?
Montreal will be waiting on the fitness of Harry Novillo, yet to appear in a competitive fixture for Impact. If passed fit, the Frenchman is likely to get the nod on the right side of attack. If not Remi Garde will decide between Orji Okwonkwo or Mathieu Choiniere for that role. Okwonkwo’s been the man in possession thus far, but there’s merit behind the fan lobby that is pro-Choiniere.
The rest of the line-up should be as you were, providing an opportunity for those involved to erase last week’s lack-lustre Houston hop and bring some Florida sunshine back to freezing Montreal.
Despite Orlando optimism around recent high profile player arrivals, Montreal should be well enough equipped to emerge with points from this latest trip south. Rarely does Piatti let consecutive games go past as quietly as last weekend’s or without an assist or goal. The Argentine Lion-hunter will be thirsty for another kill and his form is good in these parts.
Orlando City - Rowe - Acosta, Miller, De John, O’Neill, Ruan - Mendez, Kljestan, Johnson - Nani, Dwyer
Montreal Impact - Bush - Sagna, Cabrera, Diallo, Lovitz - Piette, Azira, Taider, Piatti - Novillo, Urruti.
Referee - Timothy Ford
How do you think Impact will fare in Orlando this weekend?
This poll is closed
They’ll win easily.
They’ll win but it will be close.
It’ll be a drawn game.
Another defeat on the road.