Crucial points on the line as Crew hosts Impact
Both unbeaten in their last five matches, the two hottest teams in Major League Soccer will square off when the Crew welcomes the Montreal Impact on Saturday night (7:30PM EST/ FOX Sports Ohio).
Following a rough introduction to MLS, Jesse Marsch's side has regrouped to make a push for the playoffs with the additions of Italians Marco di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta.
"The new additions have definitely been key. [Montreal] is doing something right," Robert Warzycha said after Friday's training session in Obetz. "They've found momentum and that's why they're so successful. Their last couple of results are impressive."
"[The Impact] has made good incorporations," Milovan Mirosevic added. "We played against them in the second game of the league, and I thought that they really tried to play good soccer. I think now, they are having the results because of that. When we played the second game in Montreal, I really thought that they are one of the really good teams here in the league."
Though he has only scored two goals in his first season in Black & Gold, both of Mirosevic's goals have come in each of the Crew's previous two games against the Impact. However, since the addition of Federico Higuaín, Mirosevic has had to shift to more of a box-to-box central midfielder. The naturally attack-minded midfielder is becoming more and more comfortable with his new role on the field.
"It hasn't been easy for me because I'm not a defensive player, but as soon as the games are passed, I start feeling better," the Chilean explained. "My responsibilities on the field are different and of course I'm happy that our forwards are scoring a lot. We're creating a lot of chances and in some ways the team is a bit more solid."
While Mirosevic continues to adjust to his new role, Warzycha will have to make at least one change to his lineup on Saturday as defender Josh Williams will serve a one match suspension for his red card against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night. Warzycha has a few options to fill Williams' vacancy at left back against the Impact.
"It's tough. [Williams] has played the last few games at [left back], and obviously he scored the goal against Philadelphia," the head coach explained. "We're going to talk about it and put the best possible player out there. Netzo [Nemanja Vukovic] is probably the logical solution, or obviously Ethan Finlay can play over there or Danny O'Rourke."
Vukovic was Warzycha's regular choice at left back earlier in the season, but hasn't played since injuring his ankle in a friendly against Stoke City on July 24. The Montenegrin says he is fit and ready to return if called upon.
"I am good," Vukovic said. "I've been training for two weeks. I've done two weeks with the team, practicing full. I'm fit."
He added, "I respect the coach, I respect everything here. My job is just to work. I work hard in practice and everything, and wait. Maybe now, it's come time for me to play again. i think I can play well like before and I think I can help my team play better."
Naturally a forward, Finlay could help battle Montreal's speed on the right wing as Warzycha's other option at left back. Warzycha is confident in Finlay's defensive capabilities should he decide to start the rookie.
"I have full confidence that Ethan would do a good job," Warzycha said of his first round draft pick.
Saturday's match will be the Crew's sixth in the last three weeks. With playoff implications being played for, the team is happy to play the match in front of its faithful supporters.
"It's going to be very helpful for us, playing in front of our fans," Mirosevic said. "After the last couple of weeks that have been very tough for us, the support will be very important. Our legs right now are not at 100-percent. We need [the fans] more than ever."
Added Warzycha, "This time of the season, it's very important to have games at home. We're a very good team at home. I'm very glad we'll be playing this game in front of our fans."