The pressure’s on. The business end of the season has arrived, and it’s the time when points make prizes.
This is the message for both teams heading into tomorrow evening’s clash at Stade Saputo where FC Dallas are the visitors. The Montreal venue has been a relatively kind trip for the Texans over the years, with a win, a draw and a solitary defeat in three previous visits.
That defeat was in a game, which I still consider to be Evan Bush’s finest, in May 2015, when the Impact ‘keeper was beaten once but pulled off a series of breathtaking saves, as the Impact ran out narrow 2-1 winners, their only victory ever over tomorrow evening’s opponent.
Like Montreal Impact, it’s been an indifferent season in terms of results for FC Dallas. They’ve been as inconsistent as their northern hosts, and similarly have found it difficult to string consecutive wins together.
Each side is touching the play-off line in their respective conferences, Impact one place above, Dallas one place below. Records are similar, Impact 10-13-3 and Dallas 10-10-6, and while recent form may give Dallas the edge, their form on the road has been far from stellar. Frankly, both clubs need to start winning. They’ve less games left to play than most of their direct competition.
The big plus for Montreal tomorrow evening is the availability of Bojan Krkic, certain to make his first MLS start. If his impact is as rapid as what was recently witnessed with Lassi Lappalainen, then Montreal will have started the game on the front foot. Prodigal son, Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla has also returned, hopefully with a dose more maturity than when he left, and he too adds firepower, but may not start.
The downside for Remi Garde of course is the re-occurence of Nacho Piatti’s injury. No-one is ever as important than the Argentinian to the Montreal cause, and the question, as ever seemingly, is can the Impact do it without their number 10?
A further blow arrived today with the news that Samuel Piette will miss the next three weeks with a re-occurrence of the abdominal injury which first flared up in the defeat against Toronto FC five weeks ago. It was initially thought he had been rested for the midweek game in Calgary, but it appears now that injury had ruled him out.
A re-vamped back four with the departure of Diallo should include Raitala and Camacho, flanked by Sagna and Corrales or Lovitz, and Evan Bush in goal is set to become the first player to reach 200 Impact appearances (all comps) in the MLS-era.
Shamit Shome will resume in a midfield, which is likely also to include Bojan, Taider and Lappalainen. It will be interesting to see if Garde decides to stick with 4-4-2. Should he do so, Jackson-Hamel, the match-winner against Cavalry, may get the nod to partner Urruti up front, but another interesting, probably preferred, option would be to pair the Argentinian with second-top scorer, Okwonkwo.
FC Dallas are likely to line-out in a conventional 4-3-3. Coach Luchi Gonzalez, promoted from the internal role of Academy Director this year, favours a style of play emphasizing possession and counter-pressing, dubbed Luchi-Ball by Toros observers.
The danger men the Impact must watch are likely to be the trio; Mosquera, Ferreira and Barrios, who found some cohesion and chemistry in the midweek visit to LA Galaxy, despite a 0-2 defeat.
But again yet another similarity to Montreal arises, FC Dallas has not enjoyed having a regular goal-getter in their ranks in 2019. Senegalese Dominique Badji and Colombian Jesus Ferreira have top scored in MLS for tomorrow evening’s visitors with the relatively modest tallies of six goals each.
Line-Ups (projected) -
IMFC - Bush - Sagna, Camacho, Raitala, Lovitz - Shome, Taider, Bojan, Lappalainen - Urruti, Okwonkwo.
FC Dallas - Gonzalez - Cannon, Hedges, Ziegler, Hollingshead - Pomykal, Acosta Ramos, Ferreira - Barrios, Badji, Mosquera.
Match Officials -
Referee: Ted Unkel
Asst Refs: Kathryn Nesbitt, Andrew Bigelow
4th Official: Yusri Rudolf
VAR: Ricardo Salazar