Regardless if Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti is available for Saturday’s match at Stade Saputo, the difference in both sides’ style always make for an intriguing match-up, with this week’s rendition marking the Impact's 2019 home opener.
The Crew (4-1-1, 13 pts.) are 2-5-1 all-time at Montreal (2-2-2, 8 pts.), who come into the weekend on the heels of a scoreless draw at D.C. United on Tuesday. Concerning their style, it’s a defensive-minded feel that can lure teams in and prove dangerous on the counter.
“It’s always just a difficult place to play. I think that because of how they play,” said midfielder Wil Trapp. “Home or away they are a wily type of team that can defend well. They can counterattack well, and they have guys that can hurt you.”
Of those guys, Piatti stands out with three goals is as many games, but he’s missed the last three matches and hasn’t appeared on the pitch since March 16. To the club’s benefit, midfielder Saphir Taïder has emerged as the offensive leader, also totaling three goals on 17 shots in six starts.
The Crew’s last visit to Montreal resulted in a 3-0 loss as the Impact’s third goal proved their notoriety on the counter, courtesy of Piatti. With that in mind, come Saturday, the focus is on embracing that give-and-take style and being mindful of the possibilities in transition.
“We have to find a balance. It is very important to find a balance because they do pretty well with counter attacks. We have to be prepared for those moments,” said defender Waylon Francis.”
Key to that balance is maintaining shape and pressuring after losing possession, the latter being area that the Crew has proven capable of given their League-leading mark in recoveries (448).
“I think for this match in particular, they will be excited for the home opener of course," Trapp said. "They play a lower-block kind of defensive style, so for us it is being cautious, in transition moments and understanding that we might have more of the ball than other games. But that is just the cat-and-mouse game that they like to play. Getting them out of their shape, and then trying to exploit those spaces.”
For Montreal, Taïder presents a challenge on the wings while forward and new acquisition Maxi Urruti will be well-rested after sitting out last match due to a red card vs. New York City FC on April 6. Collectively, the Impact have scored seven goals with a shot-conversion rate of 16 percent – near the middle of the pack in Major League Soccer – while their defensive effort has led to 11 goals conceded, which is the fifth-most allowed in the League.
Still, Montreal proves dangerous on second balls as a counter-attacking team and ranks top-five in aerials won (104), duels won (344), chances created (54), with again, all six matches coming away from home.
Meanwhile, the Crew pose one of the League’s top defensive challenges, having allowed four goals on 22 shots on target faced. Additionally, the Club leads the League in shutouts (4) and ranks second in save percentage (81.82).
Saturday’s kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. Supporters can watch the match on SportsTime Ohio, stream on FOX Sports GO, or listen on www.ColumbusCrewSC.com (English & Spanish).