It is likely to be the strangest Vancouver - Montreal derby (if that’s the right term) of them all and hopefully for some time to come as well.
Sandy, Utah is the venue as the Whitecaps face the Snowflakes almost 1300 metres above sea-level.
For the first time this season Montreal goes into a game slightly the bookies’ favourite. You can get a best-priced 27/20 (+135) on the men from the East, while their Vancouver ‘hosts’ are listed at 39/20 (+195). It’s 2/1 the draw.
In other words the odds-makers call it close. It’s a tough one to predict given all the unusual conditions attached, with Montreal seeking to go unbeaten over the first four games of a new MLS season for only the second time in history.
There are a few interesting links between the sides of course, with Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos a former coach of Montreal Impact in its pre-MLS days, and Max Crepeau, another ex-Impact man who’ll be Vancouver’s last line of defence hoping to post a shut-out against his previous club.
It wasn’t lost on Will Nancy who acknowledged at Wednesday’s press conference having known Crepeau since he was eleven years old. “He’s a good kid. I am happy for him. He’s doing a really good job in Vancouver.”
But the Montreal coach preferred to dwell more on his own team than speak of the opposition.
“We had a really good game against Columbus, but I think we need to be more composed to finish the action so we worked on that a lot this week. In terms of performance I’m pretty happy at what we’ve done [so far].”
Both Nancy and last week’s captain Victor Wanyama admitted playing at altitude will be a factor in the match, indicating that all five permitted subs are highly likely to record minutes.
Wanyama: “You need to be extra fit. You cannot try to cheat, when you have to go five metres more you cannot try to save yourself [for later].”
“All the players who start will give everything they have in the tank and whatever is left we don’t want to pace ourselves for later, for that can change the game.
“If someone cannot continue, we have a lot of players on the bench who can come on and make a difference.”
Montreal are still without Luis Binks and this season’s top marksman Mason Toye, who will be out for 2-4 weeks, but the prognosis seems to be more positive surrounding Zachary Brault-Guillard. The Canadian international is expected to add his power-game again to the right side, after leaving the action early last week.
Vancouver are missing Michael Baldisimo, who suffered a setback in training this week, but may have Erik Godoy and Leo Owusu back, although the midweek fixture against struggling Minnesota may be a more realistic target for the pair, who trained at about 75% on Wednesday according to coach Dos Santos.
Bruno Gaspar is a doubt but Canada’s captain from the CONCACAF u23 tournament in Mexico, Derek Cornelius is again available for selection. Despite Cornelius’ return to fitness however, Dos Santos is expected to retain a central defensive partnership of Rose and Veselinovic.
Ali Adnan remains hamstrung by travel restrictions and remains in BC.
Neither side looks completely comfortable in defence and much will depend on how Miller, Camacho and Struna deal with Cavallini, Dajome and Caicedo, while at the other end with Toye still sidelined, Montreal’s front two could be altered. Quioto looks a certain starter, but fit again Lassi Lappalainen has claims, and will challenge Erik Hurtado (against his old club) for the start alongside the Honduran. Bjorn Johnsen is another who could come into the reckoning.
Should Lappalainen start he’s likely to be deployed wide left with Quioto switched to a more central role.
As for how the ninety minutes will unfold.... ?
There’s likely to be goals, it’s certainly a tough one to call and even the bookies are sat on the fence!
Projected Line-ups -
VWFC - Crepeau - Nerwinski, Veselinovic, Roae, Gutierrez - Dajome, Bikel, Teibert, Caicedo - Caio Alexandre, Cavallini
Bench - Hasal, Brown, Cornelius, Gaspar, Metcalfe, Raposo, Ricketts, Habibullah
CFM - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Struna, Camacho, Miller, Kizza - Wanyama, Piette, Mihailovic - Quioto, Hurtado
Bench - Pantemis, Bayiha, Waterman, Maciel, Sejdic, Hamdy, Torres, Lappalainen, Johnsen
Match Officials -
Referee: Rosendo Mendoza
Asst Refs: Mike Rottersman, Jeff Hosking
4th Official: Ramy Touchan
VAR: Alan Kelly
Asst VAR: TJ Zablocki
THE REF - Rosendo Mendoza - MLS games 14.
Fouls called/game - 23.3
Yellows/game - 2.5
Reds (career) - 2
PK’s awarded - 3
Mr Mendoza has only ever taken charge of one Montreal game previously, the 1-4 defeat to the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena last September.
In that game he yellow-carded Luis Binks in the 37th minute for ‘unsporting behaviour’ and then issued a straight red to the Englishman in the 90the minute for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 28). Recorded Wednesday evening, the TBIR team discusses the upcoming Vancouver Whitecaps v CFM clash (with special guest Michael McColl of AFTN podcast), looks back on the 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew... and features the CONCACAF Futsal Championship & The Old Trafford Break-in.
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!
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