A frustrated Montreal Impact now switch attention to MLS play after an eventful night of CONCACAF Champions League action in Guatemala City saw them fall 1-0 to CD Heredia. A poor opening half was made worse with the questionable sending off of Montreal’s newly acquired central defender Adrián López Rodríguez (a.k.a. Piscu) in his debut match forcing the club to play with 10-men for the remainder of the match.
Just when it looked like the Impact would escape with a 0-0 draw, the Guatemalan side made history in the 88th minute with a goal by forward Charles Córdoba, earning Heredia its first goal and win in the club’s first CONCACAF Champions League tournament.
Now Montreal welcomes the Houston Dynamo to Stade Saputo. The Dynamo are a side that was quite fortunate in its own right not to come away with a 0-0 draw in a CONCACAF Champions League trip to Trinidad and Tobago against W Connection. Overall it was a defensive showing by both sides but two missed chances late by the Trinidadian side allowed the Dynamo to escape with a point.
Both of these sides are struggling for consistency as the season comes down the final stretch but with only two points separating them in the Eastern Conference standings it makes this match all the more vital. A win could see either side jump from its current position (Montreal Impact in 3rd and Houston Dynamo in 5th) into the top two places and make the playoff race that much tighter.
When it comes down to form, Montreal have the edge with a great 8-3-1 record at Stade Saputo, with the lone defeat coming in that crazy 4-3 thriller against Colorado Rapids. Even throughout the defensive issues, Marco Schällibaum’s tactical adjustments and fixture congestion aside from a few disappointing draws to Chivas USA and FC Dallas, all of the clubs troubles have come away from home as is evident from its disappointing 3-2-6 road record.
Houston finds itself in a similar pattern of being an equally impressive home side with a record of 7-3-2 but are by no means classified as “road warriors” with a dismal 3-3-5 record. In fact the last time these two sides met in mid-June the Impact came away 2-0 home winners with two first half goals by Felipe and Marco Di Vaio.
However, in the coaching department Houston has the advantage in this match with Dominic Kinnear being on the touchline. The same can’t be said for Schällibaum after suffering his 4th ejection of the season in the 2-1 win over D.C. United last weekend. It will be interesting to see how MLS and the Disciplinary Committee handles what looks like an ever-increasing trend. As of now it only looks like he’ll be suspended for this match, with his assistant Mauro Biello taking over once again. However, it’s hard to see the man known as the “Swiss Volcano” or the club getting many more chances without a hefty fine and/or lengthy suspension.
The tactics of this match will see both squads able to play very similar styles, with Houston more accustomed to the 4-4-2 formation and the understated forward partnership of Will Bruin and Giles Barnes. The ability of those two to work off each other and find gaps in the defensive third for quality delivery from captain Brad Davis or fullbacks Corey Ashe and Kofie Sarkodie will be a challenge for the likes of Alessandro Nesta, Matteo Ferrari and Hassoun Camara. One key player for the Impact to keep an eye on is Houston’s new DP, Honduran midfielder Alex Lopez. After making his debut in the starting XI down in Trinidad and Tobago midweek, this is a player that could change the game and tip the balance in favor of the visitors.
By contrast, Montreal have tinkered slightly but look relatively settled on some variation of a 4-2-3-1 formation. If Biello can duplicate the attacking performance of Felipe against D.C. coupled with a rested Marco Di Vaio and Patrice Bernier, who both didn’t travel midweek to Guatemala City, and a settled in Hernán Bernardello, the Dynamo will need to get good defensive shifts from Ricardo Clarke and Adam Moffat.
Both sides are coming off midweek travels on CONCACAF Champions League duty, so top level performances might be at a premium. However, with key players like Di Vaio, Bernier, and Nesta not making the trip midweek, it could turn out to be a blessing and give Montreal that much needed boost.
That said, even with the rested players, I don’t see very many goals in this one. Road record aside, this is a Houston team that tends to fly under the radar but who almost always begin to pick up the pace at this point in the season.
Montreal’s record in games where Marco Schällibaum has been suspended hasn’t made for good reading, dropping points against Columbus Crew on two occasions in a 1-1 draw and 2-0 loss while managing to dig its way out of a 3-1 deficit to scrape out a 3-3 draw at BMO Field against Toronto FC.
This time I think the trend gets reversed, as the club will be motivated after losing the CONCACAF Champions League match in that fashion and considering this as another match against Eastern Conference foes that will have a big effect on the standings.
Montreal Impact 1-0 Houston Dynamo