Orlando City has a tough task ahead this week, as the Lions travel north of the border to take on the Montreal Impact. That task is made all the more difficult when you consider that both Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino have international duty the night before the match. The Impact may have a bit of revenge in mind after Orlando claimed the first meeting back in May, 2-1.
Larin and Canada will play El Salvador in Vancouver on Tuesday night at 10 p.m. Eastern. Molino and his Trinidad and Tobago teammates will be in Jacksonville that night, taking on the USMNT at 8 p.m. It is indeed unlikely that either would be available for Wednesday night in Montreal.
The Impact (9-7-10, 37 points) have regained their footing after a three-game winless streak (0-2-1), beating Toronto FC 1-0 on Aug. 27. The Lions (6-7-13, 31 points) snapped a four-game, 0-2-2 skid the next night, beating New York City FC, 2-1. Which team will extend its unbeaten streak to two games? We’ll find out Wednesday, but clearly the Impact have some advantages being at home and not missing two of their best attacking players.
Montreal's win over rival Toronto snapped a three-game winless skid for the Impact. What was behind that dip in form and was the win over the Reds enough to alleviate fans' anxiety over those results as the season's final stretch arrives?
John Richan: It was not easy to pin the dip in form down to any one specific thing. On the whole, the Impact were finding it hard to maintain consistency. But if there was one area on the pitch that was struggling, we could say it was the central back pairing of Laurent Ciman and Victor Cabrera. Usually these two have been great together over the last two seasons but the chemistry just hasn't been there since Ciman returned from international duty with Belgium at Euro 2016. The last two games have seen Hassoun Camara pair up with Ciman and things have been a lot smoother at the back.
What do you think the Impact learned from the first meeting in Orlando that they'll be able to use or look to exploit on Wednesday? Will Orlando City's coaching change negate anything useful?
JR: Going into that game in May, the Impact were also in another lull. On that occasion, Montreal were going into the last meeting in Orlando having drawn four matches in a row and at that time managing games was an issue with this team. Looking ahead to next week, I think the Impact will try and expose the flanks with Ignacio Piatti and Dominic Oduro. There is a good chance that Didier Drogba will miss out, so it will allow for a more balanced attack, which at times has actually been more beneficial than having everything run through Drogba. Montreal will have to be alert to the threat of the counter attack next week, as Orlando has many dangerous scoring threats. Kreis is an experienced MLS coach who will know what to expect coming into Montreal.
In what ways have the Impact changed since that May meeting between the two clubs?
JR: It's very difficult to put a finger on the Impact this season. They are a team that in many ways is very different altogether from the 2015 version under Frank Klopas. The talent and depth are present but they have found it difficult to keep positive momentum going for long stretches like they did at the end of last season. On the player personnel side of things, there are two new faces in the Impact squad since the last time these two teams met: Hernan Bernardello and Matteo Mancosu. There is a good chance that both could start against Orlando, especially if Drogba does indeed miss out.
Can you please provide any suspensions, international absences, injuries that may keep players out, and predictions for a starting lineup and final score?
International Absences: Ambroise Oyongo and Johan Venegas.
Injuries: Andres Romero (out for season), Patrice Bernier (foot), Harry Shipp (groin) [however did participate in a full practice yesterday], Didier Drogba (Hamstring) [Doubtful], Marco Donadel [Questionable].
Predicted Starting Lineup: Evan Bush; Amadou Dia, Laurent Ciman, Hassoun Camara, Donny Toia; Ignacio Piatti, Hernan Bernardello, Harry Shipp, Kyle Bekker; Dominic Oduro, Matteo Mancosu.
Final Score Prediction: 2-1 Montreal.
Big thanks to John Richan of Mount Royal Soccer for stopping by and giving us an update on the Montreal Impact.