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Impact, Crew, Seek to End Winless Streaks.

Saturday’s game at Crew Stadium vitally important to both sides, but for different reasons.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Montreal Impact
Evan Bush stops Crew midfielder, Robinho, in the previous meeting of the clubs this season at Stade Saputo. IMFC won 1-0.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

As poor runs go, Columbus Crew can trump Montreal Impact at the moment, but that alone as a form-guide, won’t stand up.

For the first time this season Montreal is showing consistent form, but not in a good way. Three straight defeats have dented confidence, they remain without talisman Piatti, but now also have to face the next three weeks without captain Samuel Piette as well (abdominal strain).

All of a sudden things are beginning to look bleak for the Quebecers.

It’s eleven matches since Columbus Crew tasted MLS victory, 3-1 at Crew Stadium over the Galaxy. In that time they have fallen far behind play-off contention, but coach Caleb Porter will be keen to turn things round, at least in time to increase optimism for next season, if a late chase for a play-off berth does not succeed.

MLS: New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC
Frustrating times for Crew coach Caleb Porter as he attempts to turn the fortunes of the Ohio outfit around.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

So clearly despite their poor run, Crew will provide formidable opposition on Saturday evening. They will also look at Montreal’s latest form and believe this is the match in which they can end their winless streak.

Coach Caleb Porter -

“We owe our fans a win. We’ve been giving them far too many losses, and if we can win on Saturday, we start to put together a little bit of a run, but it won’t be easy against Montreal. They didn’t have a game midweek, so we need to recover mentally and physically. We need to show up with the same mentality as we did, Wednesday night.”

Joe Bendik has just joined Philadelphia Union, which may signal that new goal-keeper Eloy Room, of Curacao Gold Cup fame, is now cleared to play. Room (30) has spent his career in the land of his birth, playing Eredivisie football with Vitesse, Go Ahead Eagles and PSV.

Although defensively they have not conceded many goals, the problem has been in attack. That’s not helped when your main striker Gyasi Zardes is away on international duty and your most creative midfielder Federico Higuain injured, and out for the rest of the season.

Zardes is now back of course and has previous against Montreal, but hasn’t scored against Saturday’s opponents since a brace in March 2017 earned a 3-2 win at Crew Stadium.

Columbus has added further firepower to their roster with the recent acquisition of Moroccan u23 international winger, another player with Dutch links, having been born in Utrecht and spent much of his career to date in Eredivisie soccer.

Should clearance come through on time, expect to see both new acquisitions get game time, Saturday.

The Impact may face a former player also in Romario Williams. Jamaican, Williams, a recent acquisition from Atlanta United, headed his first MLS goal this season, equalizing in the final minute at Chicago, Wednesday night. It was a debut goal for the striker, assisted by another debutant and recent arrival from Costa Rica’s CS Herediano, Luis Diaz.

Orlando City SC v Montreal Impact
Impact could face former player, Romario Williams, a recent acquisition for Columbus Crew.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Montreal still struggle to make an impact on the current transfer window, no new acquisitions have been confirmed, only rumours, with the most prominent name mentioned, the young Finnish international, Lassi Lappalainen.

The squad desperately needs freshening up if a final push is to come over the final months of the season, and play-off soccer is not to be missed for a third season in succession.

Despite the absences of Piatti and Piette, there is hope however. During Piette’s time away at the Gold Cup, the Impact defeated both Portland and Seattle and narrowly lost to a late goal at Atlanta, with neither Piatti nor Piette in the team. It’s fair also to say though, those teams defeated were not at full-strength either.

Bacary Sagna spoke about the recent form-dip, but claims Impact know what needs improved. “Keep focused and stay calm. We lost some games and they way we lost them must be analysed. We know we lost because we forgot to fight as a team, forgot to be focused on the pitch, on set-pieces also and when we made mistakes it ended up in a goal. So we know why we lost, and we must keep working hard as a team and remain confident.”

Portland Timbers v Montreal Impact
Bacary Sagna (left) the voice of experience - “We must stay calm and focused.”
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

It’s just over four years since the Impact recorded their only ever victory at Crew Stadium - there have been 7 defeats - when goals from Romero and Maxim Tissot cancelled out one from Federico Higuain.

If they are to get back on track and remain in play-off contention, they must get something tomorrow evening. Much grit, determination and character will be high on the list of pre-requisites. But the Impact will also have to find a way to conjure a goal, or two ...

Line-ups (projected) -

Crew - Room - Afful, Crognale, Keita, Jimenez - Clark, Trapp - Diaz, Sosa, Argudo - Zardes

IMFC - Bush - Sagna, Cabrera, Raitala, Lovitz - Azira, Shome, Taider - Okwonkwo, Urruti, Browne

Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Refs: CJ Morgante, Michael Kampmeinert
4th Official: Greg Dopka
VAR: Ricardo Salazar