The Houston Dynamo were perhaps a little unfortunate to not walk away from Seattle Washington without grabbing at least a point against the 10-man Seattle Sounders. Despite a good effort away from BBVA Compass Stadium, a single mistake ended up the difference between the two sides. Well, that's in the past and the Dynamo have a chance to prove their offensive capabilities against the Montreal Impact who are traveling back from a CONCACAF Champions League match in Costa Rica.
In our preview of the game we broke down each team for this game, but we wanted a Montreal perspective so we asked Jean-Francois Corbert of Mount Royal Soccer to fill us in on what's going on with the Impact and what to expect from them in this game.
Dynamo Theory: First off, congratulations on beating Costa Rican club Alajuelense to reach the CCL final - you've got all of MLS behind your club to make history. That being said, you won't have all of MLS behind you Saturday. Montreal to Costa Rica to Houston is A LOT of travel, how will that affect first team lineup selections and will tired legs be a factor in this match?
Mount Royal Soccer: Thank you and we certainly hope to win this championship and represent the best way we can the MLS around the world. This is a young league and it is a great thing to see one of the MLS teams in the final. The job is not done yet but it's going to be wild at the Olympic Stadium.
The travel will have a certain effect for sure on the lineup or the players. Just the fact to play in a big semi final game and now coming into the normal life of MLS is going to be tough for the team. Emotions were high, and are still high today so they need to be real pro and get ready for Houston because it's not going to be an easy task. Injuries to players like Porter, Mapp or Donadel is not a good thing when you have to make a certain rotations in the lineup but the players must step up and try to get the first win of the season in MLS. Bernier who has not started a game this year will be in the lineup in my opinion and Camara will see some playing time in the back. The Impact will be ready for sure.
DT: Montreal had a rather disappointing year in 2014 and finished last overall after making the playoffs the year before. How has the Impact rebounded from the previous year and what are the expectations for 2015?
MRS: They rebounded by adding some key players to the lineup. The defense was horrible in 2014 so they acquired Laurent Ciman, Bakary Soumare, Victor Cabrera and Donny Toia. Those four are the starting defenders since the beginning of the season. Ciman is a force in central defense and plays with his heart on the field. They also added depth with players like Dominic Oduro and Eric Alexander. The defensive midfielders are now Nigel Reo-Coker and Marco Donadel and even if they are not playing at the highest level right now we can only salute the intention of management by trying to be better. There were pretty serious rumors concerning Alberto Gilardino coming to Montreal to play but it did not manage to be a done deal so I guess they will be very aggressive on the Market this summer to get a DP striker. People in Montreal are always expecting a championship since they are born with the Montreal Canadiens winning Stanley Cups year in and year out. They were very upset with the way 2014 went and they showed it to the ownership. Right now everybody is happy with the CONCACAF Champions League final and if the Impact manages to stay in playoff hunt until September I think everybody will be happy. For that to happen they must win game and it needs to start on Saturday.
DT: The Impact is still looking for their first win of the MLS season and hasn't exactly gotten the start they wanted with a 0-1-2 record with the 2nd lowest points per game average. Some of that is misleading since they've played the fewest games and have drawn to impressive competition. What's missing so far that can turn things around for the Impact?
MRS: Mental mistakes cost the first win of the season against Orlando. They were ahead 2-0 and 2 minutes later it was a tie. I think if they can play solid defense like they did earlier this season and manage to keep the ball a bit more they will get their fair amount of W's this season. Jack McInerney was not playing at all at the beginning of the season but he has now scored two goals in his last two games. He has proven in the past that he can score goals and the Impact really needs him to put some behind the goalkeeper.
One of the things the team must improve is the possession of the ball and not forcing the ball to the front each and every time. Some of the best plays or portions of the game were when the players were not afraid to give the ball back to the defenders to start up another attack instead of trying the long ball in front. By managing the ball better they will keep the ball away from the other team's players giving them less scoring chances. That's exactly what happened against Orlando. Two mistakes and it was 2-2. Keeping the other team from getting free kicks in dangerous positions is also something they need to improve upon. Since the beginning of the season they are giving away too many chances right outside of the box and it's always a scoring chance for the opposing team.
DT: While it's still early in the season, is there a defining style of play for the Impact?
MRS: They are playing with only 1 striker up front. Their style of play is a 4-2-3-1 so a lot of player in the midfield where really the game is decided when you face Montreal. So far the defensive midfielders are not quite as good as they really want to be, but with a potential start from Bernier things might change. The team is also very dangerous on the counter attack with players like Piatti or Romero who are fast and very good with the ball.
DT: What are your predictions for this game and who is in your starting XI?
Starting 11: Bush, Toia, Soumare, Camara, Miller, Bernier, Mallace, Piatti,Alexander,Duka, McInerney.
Predictions will be a 2-1 win for....Houston! They always had some difficulties against the Dynamo and with the trip to Costa Rica and players like Ciman who travelled a lot this past weeks or two by playing with Belgium it is going to be though for the Impact. They will be ready but a goal in the last few minutes of the game will kill their winning chances.
For my answers to Jean-Francois Corbert's answers, head over to Mount Royal Soccer and check them out!