Last weekend we saw the Fire win their 2nd game of the season by defeating the Crew 1-0 at Toyota Park. The game wasn't pretty at times but the Fire got the job done when Jeff Larentowicz headed in a flick on by Austin Berry from a long Jalil Anibaba thrown in the 83rd minute. Both teams at times during the game looked pretty bad with errant passes and bad first touches but the Fire's defenders were able to shut down the Crew attack and limit them to 0 shots on goal and 0 corner kicks. The Fire offense got it going in the 2nd haf and really should have had at least a couple of more goals to their name. My man of the match had to be Anibaba, because he showed a lot of poise in the back (especially with Higuain and Oduro applying high pressure). The Fire created some momentum as they head into their game this weekend.
Saturday, Frank and company travel north of the border to take on the sophomore year Montreal Impact. The Impact are enjoying a fantastic start to the 2013 season by compiling a 4-1-1 record under new head coach Marco Schällibaum, who took over for former Fire legend Jesse Marsch. With relatively the same roster in place since last summer, it seems that the change in coaching philosophy has brought this team together and have them playing up to their potential as they look to have their first successful season in MLS. The Fire on the other hand will look to hand Montreal their 2nd loss of the season and build off of last week's win as they head into another early bye week.
The one thing that affects how the Impact line up every week are the knocks that the players take week in and week out. For example, Nesta could go 90 minutes like he did against Portland and Columbus. But he could also play limited minutes like he did versus Toronto. Or, he may not play any minutes as he has done for all the other games that Montreal has played this season. If all of Montreal's players are healthy this is what Marco Schällibaum could go with:
There is a suspension concern in Fire land with Wells Thompson not available for Saturday because of retro action taken by the MLS Disciplinary Committee (For his challenge on Agustin Viana last weekend). The carousel that has been RB so far this season has been dealt another blow. Fortunately it's only very temporary. This is how I think Frank will start the match:
So far the Pause-Larentowicz combo has worked well for Klopas and in my opinion moving Pause to right back is a bad idea. His experience needs to stay in the middle where he can help direct the team. I also want to see Santos get a start over MacDonald just for the sole reason of MacDonald's attitude last week. I don't need to remind anyone what happened when he was subbed off last week. A benching, at least for a game, should send a clear signal. Other than that the starting eleven should remain the same I think.
- Berry and Anibaba vs. Di Vaio- Even though he may be turning 37 this summer, Marco Di Vaio has shown that he can still score goals and lead an attack for a team. What I have seen this season from him is that he likes to have all of the attack go through him. Just like last week against the Crew with Higuain, if the Fire can shut down Di Vaio and take him out of the game it will make taking 3 points a lot easier. Berry and Anibaba played arguably their best game of the season last weekend and if they do the same then there should be no reason why Johnson doesn't get another clean sheet.
- Bernier vs. Rolfe- Rolfe has started to float back into the withdrawn striker position as the season has progressed. As we noticed towards the end of last season when teams that shut down Rolfe also shut down the Fire's offense, we have to find a way to really get him going. Bernier has shown this season and last that he is the work horse in the middle of the park for the Impact. He is Montreal's Logan Pause. If Rolfe slides into the withdrawn striker role to assume a playmaking role he will have his hands full with Bernier. I have a feeling that Rolfe can get the better of the 33 year old defensive midfielder as long as he can combine well with Larentowicz, Pause, and MacDonald/Santos.
For the Montreal Impact I would have to go with Felipe Martins. After having a fantastic 2012 where he registered 4 goals and 10 assists, he looks to do the same in 2013 as he has a goal and an assist already. From what I've seen, he is that player that wants to be an explosive #10 who controls all the Impact attacks. If the Fire are able to shut down Di Vaio, the Impact will look to Martins to add to the attack and take pressure off of Di Vaio. Pause will have his hands full but I think the experienced defensive midfielder will be able stop the 22 year old Martins.
I have this feeling that Nyarko will be the Fire's wildcard this week. So far this season he has been knocked around a little too much (as is par for the course these past couple of years really), only registering 1 goal and no assists. I think that this game could be his break out game where he provides the much needed service that this team needs. Although he did that last week in the 2nd half of the Crew game, I look for the team to finish those chances this week. With the average age of my predicted defensive starters for Montreal being 31 years old, Nyarko should be able to use his speed to create attacking opportunities for the Men in Red. Granted he will get knocked around quite a bit, but he reminds me of DaMarcus Beasley. Taking knocks but always playing for the better of the team.
With the Fire heading into another bye week next week, they look to gain as much momentum as possible in order to keep morale and confidence high. Montreal, on the other hand, look to continue a good start to the 2013 season where they have only lost 1 of their first 6 games. Unfortunately the Impact are now playing the Canadian Championship as well. During Wednesday's match in that competition, they only had a few of their regular starters play significant minutes against Toronto. So a majority of the team will have some rest coming into the game. Either way, I would expect all of the Fire players to give 100% since there is a bye week next weekend. It will be tough but I think the Fire will be able to stop Montreal's attack and start to put more chances in the back of the net. Fire win this one 2-0 with goals from Lindpere and Rolfe.