It's a battle of two teams starved for victory. The Montreal Impact hasn't won in five matches (0-1-4) and Orlando City of course hasn't won in six (0-3-3). The Lions return home after a horrible trip to Kansas City in which a 2-1 loss belied the degree to which they were completely outplayed by their hosts, Sporting KC. Orlando City hasn't done well against struggling teams, allowing both SKC and the New York Red Bulls to break out of slumps. But those games were on the road, and the Lions have been pretty decent at Camping World Stadium (yeah, I know).
With three matches in nine days, Orlando City must get some results. I know, I sound like a broken record.
Joining us to help us learn more about the 2016 Impact is John Richan of Mount Royal Soccer, SB Nation's Montreal blog. I also answered John's questions so head on over there if you care about what I had to say.
It's been awhile since our two teams have met. Who are Montreal Impact's key off-season additions and subtractions that we should know about and how have they affected Mauro Biello's team and approach this year?
John Richan: The Impact didn't make too many moves in the off-season, perhaps for the first time since joining MLS. The two new names that might stick out are Harry Shipp and Lucas Ontivero. Shipp was acquired from the Chicago Fire during the preseason and the hope was that he would be a key piece of the Montreal midfield. Things started off well for Shipp. During March, he appeared to be a key part of the attack; however, things haven't been so smooth for the Chicago native over the last few months. I think Mauro Biello has tried to have the Impact play a similar style that brought him success near the end of last season, however, Montreal has run into injury problems of late and Biello is currently struggling to fit the puzzle pieces together (especially in the midfield).
Montreal not only finished the 2015 regular season strong, but also has started 2016 off in good form. This may coincide with Didier Drogba's signing but it seems to hold even when he's not in the lineup. What's been the difference with this club since the Drogba signing?
JR: I think that besides Drogba, Mauro Biello needs to be praised for Montreal's improved play to end the 2015 season and the start of 2016. The one aspect that changed very quickly after Biello was named head coach was the team morale seemed to skyrocket. Biello seems to have a good rapport with the players and rewards players who are in good form. These are two facets that the team appeared to be lacking under Frank Klopas. Like I mentioned before, the consistency in the roster from 2015 to 2016 has helped a lot. Montreal has been a team constantly turning over players and coaches since joining MLS, so to begin 2016 with a very similar starting XI to how they finished 2015 was a big boost and helped them get out of the gate quickly.
What kind of formation and tactics can we expect from Montreal Impact this weekend against Orlando City, and what do you view as the game's key match-up?
JR: I think you will see an Impact team that is going to try and get back to the basics this weekend. Watch for a 4-2-3-1 formation. There will be two notable absences from the lineup as neither Drogba nor Victor Cabrera made the trip to Orlando. The Impact have been working hard in training this week to shore up their defense. I don't think I can get through this question without saying that the one key match-up will be how Kaká fares against the two Impact central defenders -- Laurent Ciman and Wandrille Lefèvre. Although Ciman is one of the top defenders in MLS, he is coming off a couple sub-par performances and with Lefèvre primed to start, Kaká could take full advantage of the match-up. I expect the Impact to sit back and defend and try and hit Orlando on the counter attack, perhaps trying to utilize the speed of Dom Oduro.
What is your anticipated starting XI, key injuries/suspensions, and score prediction for Saturday?
JR: Predicted Starting XI: Evan Bush; Ambroise Oyongo, Wandrille Lefèvre, Laurent Ciman, Hassoun Camara; Marco Donadel, Patrice Bernier; Ignacio Piatti, Harry Shipp, Lucas Ontivero, Dominic Oduro.
Injuries: Didier Drogba, Victor Cabrera, Andres Romero, Cameron Porter, Donny Toia, Calum Mallace, Eric Alexander.
Score Prediction: 2-1 Orlando.
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Big thanks to John Richan of Mount Royal Soccer for stopping by and giving us the inside scoop on the Montreal Impact.