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Optimistic Montreal Awaits Uncertain Travelling Crew

A bright start and Crew’s road woes could spell more good news for Montreal in Florida today...

MLS: Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew SC
Lassi’s return? Could today be the day Lassi Lappalainen (left) returns to the Montreal squad? Would represent a certain symmetry, his injury occurred in last season’s 2-1 win at MAPFRE in which he scored...
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the club formerly known as Montreal Impact had an outing on the first day of May, they trounced bitter rival Toronto FC 6-0 in a Canadian Championship semi-final.

Today it’s MLS of course, and while repeating such a margin of victory is a ridiculous thought, another ‘home’ win would be just as welcome.

The current MLS Cup holders no less, stand between CF Montreal and its prospects of adding further momentum to a bright start to the season.

A tall order indeed but not as far-fetched as a clinically-despatched Auro Jnr penalty kick would be. Montreal has reason to believe...

Crew’s condensed Championship season of 2020 saw them play 10 matches at opponents’ grounds. Yet strange as it may seem for a club that went on to lift MLS’ top prize, they failed to win any of them. Road form of 5 draws and as many defeats suggests a phobia the yellow machine must overcome to ensure repeat success in 2021. Come last season’s play-offs too, all four Crew wins came at MAPFRE.

Even Montreal produced better road form, collecting 13 points on their travels to Columbus’ 5.

My feeling that Montreal generally always has a better than evens chance at home to the Crew is borne by a 6-2-1 record north of the border since entering MLS. You could add a seventh victory too, should you include the play-off victory in 2015.

Of course it’s not really a ‘home’ game this afternoon, but it might be more so than what Red Bull Arena was to the Montreal team last year. There’s been consistent noises emerging from the group expressing how well accommodated they are in Fort Lauderdale. It’s not 2020 and the camp is harmonious.

Syndication: The Tennessean
Djordje Mihailovic (right) enjoys games against the Crew and has scored MLS goals against them in each of the last two MLS seasons...
Josie Norris / The Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Djordje Mihailovic was the latest to comment yesterday... “We’ve a fantastic training facility and a great stadium to play in & have to thank Inter Miami for the use of their facilities, but the coaches, the staff and the president have done a tremendous job in making us feel comfortable.”

Straddling today’s game, Columbus Crew is in the midst of a feisty CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final with Mexico’s Monterrey. After a lively contest Wednesday evening, and the incredible Caleb Porter outburst during the post-match presser, Columbus minds inevitably will be partially drawn towards midweek’s resumption of the tie.

And we’ve seen in the past, particularly against Toronto FC, how this type of scenario can play into Montreal hands.

Montreal expects to be at full strength bar the availability of Luis Binks whose absence remains concerning to a still porous rearguard. Lassi Lappalainen and Ballou Tabla on the other hand appear ready and available for selection.

Crew manager Caleb Porter has the keener selection dilemmas. It’s likely he’ll decide to rest some players given his side’s busy schedule, and with key player Darlington Nagbe just back from injury and having played all 90 mins on Wednesday, the American international could reasonably expect some bench-time this afternoon.

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Monterrey at Columbus Crew SC
Key player - Darlington Nagbe (left) played 90 mins against Monterrey on Wednesday night, his first match back after injury and could be rotated to the bench for this afternoon’s clash.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

It’s going to be hot at the Inter-Miami stadium, another factor which could prove telling. Fresher and younger legs could help win the day and I reckon based on average age, Crew’s starting line-up is 3+ years beyond that of Montreal’s.

It all adds up to a fascinating contest, and I wouldn’t be surprised should Will Nancy emerge the happier of the coaches come five o’clock this afternoon.

Projected Line-ups -
CFM: Diop - Struna, Camacho, Miller - Brault-Guillard, Piette, Wanyama, Mihailovic, Kizza - Toye, Quioto.
Bench: Pantemis, Bassong, Waterman, Torres, Maciel, Sejdic, Lappalainen, Johnsen, Hurtado

Crew: Room - Harrison, Williams, Mensah, Valenzuela - Artur, Kitchen - Luis Diaz, Zelarayan, Santos - Zardes.
Bench: Lampson, Wormgoor, Keita, Francis, Parente, Nagbe, Matan, Etienne, Wright-Phillips

Match Officials -
Referee: Timothy Ford
Asst Refs: Corey Rockwell, Kevin Klinger
4th Official: Silviu Petrescu
VAR: Jose Carlos Rivero
Asst VAR: Jozef Batko

THE REF - Timothy Ford - MLS games 27.

Fouls called/Game - 20.9
Yellows/Game - 3.3
Reds (career) - 6
PK’s awarded - 5

CFM record in MLS Regular season games handled by Timothy Ford -
MP 2 .... W 2 .... L 0 .... D 0 .... Scored 5 .... Conceded 2 .... Points 6

CFM has had one player red-carded in the two games controlled by Mr Ford. Zakaria Diallo was dismissed in stoppage time in the 3-1 victory over Orlando City in 2019.

In the only other game involving Montreal and officiated by Timothy Ford, the referee dismissed Inter-Miami’s Gonzalo Higuain (last season) after the final whistle. Montreal won 2-1.

Footnote1: Djordje Mihailovic has scored MLS goals in each of the last two seasons against Columbus, and the Montreal midfielder admits he likes playing against them. Other players in the Montreal squad who have recorded MLS goals v Columbus are, Erik Hurtado, Lassi Lappalainen and Romell Quioto, whose next MLS goal will be his tenth for Montreal.

Footnote2: Of all the players involved in today’s match, none has scored more times in the series between Montreal and Columbus than Gyasi Zardes (3 goals), although his team-mate Bradley Wright Phillips can claim to have faced and scored against Montreal in MLS more times than any of the current Crew squad. 14 apps, 7 goals.

Footnote 3: Montreal has scored in every regular season home game (9) v Columbus Crew. Conversely in the last six meetings in Montreal, Crew has scored in only one game (a hat-trick by Justin Meram in May 2017).

Footnote 4: In the last four MLS meetings between the clubs, Montreal has been either level or ahead at half-time, going on to win three and lose one of those games.

Footnote 5: Who They Favour - Montreal is best-priced to win today at 23/10 (3.30), Columbus the favourite at best-priced 11/10 (2.10) and a draw the least favoured outcome at 11/4 (3.75).

Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 27). Recorded Wednesday evening, the TBIR team discusses the upcoming CFM v Columbus Crew clash (with special guest Darby Schnarfus, former anchorman of ACES Radio), looks back on the 2-2 draw with Nashville SC... and addresses names in the news; Zach Brault-Guillard, Chicharito, Jesse Marsch & Thierry Henry...

They talk the Montreal football issues of the week and cover all the usual favourite features... including, Eve’s Time Machine Social Media & CHOICES... Don’t miss it!

Every Week - The Ball Is Round... @TBIRMontreal - please follow us for regular, weekly CF Montreal, Canadian, MLS and international content in English!