With three games remaining in the 2018 Major League Soccer regular season, Columbus Crew SC (13-9-9) travels to Saputo Stadium to take on the Montreal Impact (12-15-4) on Saturday, October 6 at 3 p.m. ET.
Last Saturday, Crew SC hosted the Philadelphia Union at MAPFRE Stadium in a match with major playoff implications. The match ended in a scoreless draw, leaving Columbus still searching to clinch playoffs as the Black & Gold maintain fourth in the East. Harrison Afful posted what was perhaps Crew SC's closest chance of the game with a shot from the right side of the box in stoppage time of the second half, but a diving save from Andre Blake secured the draw.
On a different note, Montreal suffered a dominating road loss at the hands of D.C. United last Saturday. D.C.’s Wayne Rooney and Paul Arriola each scored a brace after the opening goal from Luciano Acosta. The match kept Montreal in sixth place in the East and allowed D.C. to be within two points of the playoff line.
Crew SC and Montreal last met in Week 2 of the regular season for Columbus’ home opener. Crew SC came out on top thanks to a brace from Gyasi Zardes, which included a stoppage-time game-winning penalty kick on his home debut. Columbus' scoring was opened by midfielder Federico Higuain in just the 12th minute as the Argentinian stepped up to the penalty line to convert for his 50th career goal. Defender Lalas Abubakar was fouled inside the 6-yard box following a corner kick which resulted in Higuain’s penalty kick goal. Zardes added to the score just three minutes later for Columbus and secured the victory in the 94th minute on his penalty kick conversion.
As Saturday’s match approaches, Columbus is looking to secure a berth in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs while Montreal hopes to maintain their place above the playoff line. Midfielder Justin Meram spoke on the importance of the team mindset as the postseason approaches.
“When we get into these stretches towards the end of the season — when we get a lot of our guys to be healthy and intuitive into all the games that mean a lot and guys are really focused and ready to step up to the task — I think that’s what makes us such a strong group; [when] it comes to playoff time, everyone’s ready and we know what’s at stake," Meram said.
Montreal enters with a 9-4-2 home record this season, including a 4-1-2 mark since July 12. In those seven most recent matches, the Impact have conceded just five goals. As a team with a noted ability to bunker down defensively and attack on the counter with the likes of Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taider, Crew SC's ability to maintain balance and nullify Montreal's transition will be key on Saturday.
"You know, it’s all about transition," Afful said. "We just have to be focused on their transition game and I think that’s when we go in on our attack, we just have to balance who we are attacking...With transition, when you’re not balancing very well it might hurt you, so we just have to be focused and make sure we defend as a team."
Following Saturday, Crew SC travels to Orlando City SC on Sunday, October 21 at 3 p.m. ET before returning home for the final match of the 2018 MLS regular season, as the Black & Gold host Minnesota United FC on Sunday, October 28 in a 4:30 p.m. kick off at MAPFRE Stadium.