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IMPACT’S NIGHTMARE DESTINATION OFFERS A CHINK OF LIGHT

Garde’s men aim to conquer their Houston House of Horrors ….

MLS: Montreal Impact at San Jose Earthquakes
Maxi Urruti - a scorer against Houston Dynamo for each of his previous clubs.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

BBVA Compass Stadium represents the stuff of nightmares for Montreal Impact. It’s a Bleu/Blanc/Noir graveyard, with 7 defeats in 8 previous visits to the Houston venue.

In fact, Montreal’s poor run in Texas is matched only by Houston’s reciprocation in Quebec, where the Dynamo has lost on all six MLS visits; the last five without recording a goal.

It’s uncanny how form in meetings between the two has gone so emphatically with the home team.

Of the 14 previous engagements only one has not resulted in a home victory. That was back in October 2012, Impact’s first MLS season, when a Sanna Nyassi goal cancelled out an earlier strike by Will Bruin. Jesse Marsch was coach, Evan Bush was on the bench for the 17th time that season (with just one MLS start behind him), and both Hassoun Camara and Calen Carr were footballers still, and not TV Analysts.

Montreal Impact v Houston Dynamo
Sanna Nyassi celebrates his goal at BBVA Compass Stadium in October 2012, the only point-winning goal IMFC has scored at the venue.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

TALL ORDER FOR IMFC?

So a tall order for Impact 2019 if they are to emulate the class of 2013, the last Montreal side to win back to back, same-season, road games against Western opposition?

I think that would be a YES! But there is certainly more than a glimmer of hope for the IMFC, who look better equipped now for travel than at any other time in MLS.

They’ve every reason, apart from that dire past record at Houston, to make the weekend trip in confidence. Preparation and organization allied to a good run of form over the latter part of 2018 has transformed the Impact into a serious Play-off prospect. The not so small matter of an Opening Day road win is another confidence-builder.

Consider also that Dynamo’s MLS home form has not been stellar, reaching back to last season. They’ve won only twice in their last 9 league games at BBVA Compass Stadium, and they’re coming off a poor season generally, in 2018, finishing below 8th position in their Conference for only the second time in MLS-history! The previous time was 2016.

So recent seasons have not been kind, although they did prevail in the US Open Cup last September, providing the opportunity for Champions League football and a chance to blood some of their new signings prior to 2019 MLS kick-off.

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES

There’s been several comings and goings at Houston in the off-season, some involving former Impact staff. Chris Duvall may get the chance to renew acquaintance with erstwhile Montreal colleagues, Saturday, while former players Eric Alexander (to FC Cinncinati) and Andrew Wenger (retired) moved on.

Notables who also arrived include Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids), former EPL defender Maynor Figueroa, and Argentinian Matias Vera from Nacho Piatti’s old club, San Lorenzo. Vera Picked up an MLS debut red card against Real Salt Lake last week.

Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera will be looking for more consistent balance in his team. Last season, smart and nippy attacking play was too often undermined by sloppy defense and a failing to close out matches. There was a tendency to concede late goals.

DANGERMEN

Two players Diallo, Cabrera and Co will need to keep closest eye on are Honduran, Alberth Elis (11 gls last season) and Colombian 23 year-old, Mauro Manotas, who made his mark in 2018 with 19 MLS goals. Manotas has 9 goals in his last 9 MLS matches, scored twice in the US Open Cup Final success, and is already off the mark in 2019 with 3 (2 in CCL & 1 MLS).

Philadelphia Union v Houston Dynamo: Final - 2018 U.S. Open Cup
Dangerman: Striker Mauro Manotas celebrating one of his brace of goals in last year’s US Open Cup Final, is the main threat to Montreal’s rearguard.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

NOVILLO MISSING AGAIN

For Impact, forward Harry Novillo’s hamstring seems still to be a problem. The Frenchman hasn’t travelled with the squad to Texas, so expect the same starting line-up as last weekend, which means a second start for the young Nigerian, Orji Okwonkwo.

Maxi Urruti, one of two players in the current Impact squad, Nacho Piatti the other, to have scored at Houston will continue to lead the line. Urruti’s workmanlike performance last weekend came in for lavish praise from his coach and Samuel Piette alike and another selfless shift is likely to be required if Impact are to prevail this weekend.

The Argentine doesn’t look prolific, but his presence in the main striking role benefits those around him.

Montreal Impact will be hoping the orange graveyard becomes a fertile blue landscape, enabling them to keep on harvesting travel-points before football comes home to rue Sherbrooke in mid-April.

Houston Dynamo (expected) – Willis – Kevin Garcia, Fuenmator, Figueroa, Lundkvist – Boniek Garcia, Vera, Martinez – Elis, Manotas, Quioto

Montreal Impact (expected) – Bush – Sagna, Cabrera, Diallo, Lovitz – Piette, Azira, Taider, Piatti – Okwonkwo, Urruti

Referee - Ismail Elfath.