Montreal Impact return to action tomorrow evening in Columbus, a venue where success is traditionally hard to come by for the men from north of the border.
In 11 previous MLS visits the Impact has triumphed once and lost 8 times.
But they may be coming up against the Crew at a good time. Montreal is finally clear of suspensions, although must wait on the fitness of top marksmen, Quioto and Taider, while Columbus, coming off a defeat and a draw in their last two games, have a few injury worries of their own.
Influential play-maker, the Argentinian Lucas Zelarayan suffered a hamstring injury in the 2-2 draw with Dallas and goalkeeper Eloy Room had to be replaced during the same game. Neither will make tomorrow evening’s line-up, while Darlington Nagbe and Waylon Francis look doubtful at best. Coach Caleb Porter will be relieved to have Fatai Alashe and Fernando Ali, each returning from injury, available again.
The Portuguese, Pedro Santos is the expected deputy to assume Zelarayan’s play-making role, while Andrew Tarbell, formerly of San Jose, will take over in goal from Room.
The introduction of a new signing usually freshens things up, especially when it’s a striker, and Impact should be further buoyed by the squad inclusion of Mason Toye, their most recent arrival from Minnesota United.
Should Quioto and Taider be declared fit, Thierry Henry will have more effective attacking options than at any other time as boss of the Impact. Bojan has also played his way back into form, so there could be selection headaches of the right kind troubling Henry tomorrow evening.
Luis Binks will return in central defence, partnering either Camacho or Fanni, with Brault-Guillard and Raitala wide on the flanks.
Should Quioto’s injury prevent him from playing, Toye is likely to start, probably in front of a rejuvenated Bojan up front, leaving four across the midfield; Wanyama, Piette, Lappalainen and Taider, if fit. The Algerian’s deputy should he not pass a fitness test, is likely to be Shamit Shome who made his fourth start of the season last weekend in the draw with Chicago.
Given how well Columbus have been playing this season, anything from this game will be considered a bonus for Montreal, but should they bring their ‘A’ game they’re certainly capable of producing an upset. This may just be the type of fixture they need right now, after the recent slump in form.
A win could see them rise to the heady heights of seventh in the East, however failure to prevail could see them slip outside the top ten for the first time this season.
Projected Line-ups -
Crew - Tarbell - Afful, Mensah, Williams, Valenzuela - Berhalter, Santos, Artur - Diaz, Zartes, Mokhtar
IMFC - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Fanni, Binks, Raitala - Wanyama, Piette, Taider, Lappalainen - Bojan, Toye
- Referee: Victor Rivas
- Asst Refs: Peter Balciunas, C.J. Morgante
- 4th Official: Lukasz Szpala
- VAR: Fotis Bazako