When: Today, April 12th at 3PM CDT
Where: Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Canada
Hey, What Happened?
Different week, different opponent, different location, same result. It seemed that last week versus Philadelphia was a repeat of the week before in DC. The Fire take the lead in the first half while being the better of the two teams. Then they proceed to drop the intensity and quality of their play and give up the lead only to start playing with some urgency at the end in order to find the equalizer. Well that has happened for the past 2 weeks and last week the ending could have been different if Zac MacMath had not saved Mike Magee's penalty kick in the dying seconds of the match.
Hey, What's Happening?
This week the Fire head north of the border to Quebec to take on Frank Klopas and his Montreal Impact team. Just like the Fire, the Impact are coming off of a 2-2 tie, and just like the Fire, the Impact are searching for their first win of the season. Last weekend, Montreal ended up coming back to tie Red Bulls at home in a game that had mistakes but also some very well-played soccer.
Something has got to give on Saturday, right? The Fire can't tie their way to a Supporters Shield or MLS Cup, right? Either way both teams are going to be desperate to take all 3 points on Saturday afternoon.
Hey, What Should Happen?
The thing that was working for Frank Yallop and company in the preseason was a high press system. Yallop stressed that he wanted to use this system in order create offensive chances and limit the opposing team's chances.
This would be a great week to actually employ that system. Montreal so far this season has shown that without Nesta in the back four they have not had the same composure. Any kind of pressure and the Impact defense would just punt the ball forward or give it away to the opposing team. The other kind of pressure that the Fire can apply is putting pressure on Di Vaio. Everybody knows that almost everything going forward for Montreal goes through Di Vaio. There is no doubt that the 37-year-old Italian can still play in the MLS - when healthy, he is still one of the deadliest strikers in the league - but the further you push him away from goal, the better the chances are of taking all the points from the game.
On the Fire side of the ball, they HAVE TO clean up their set piece defending. Both goals shipped last week came off of free-kick deliveries, and seven of the nine goals the Fire have surrendered have come from restarts. This has been the killer for the Fire. If they want to have any chance at making the post season, it has to be fixed.
Hey, What's Going to Happen?
When the Fire play the Impact this afternoon I would expect Yallop to name the same starting XI that he used versus the Union last weekend. I think that Cochrane has played himself into the starting left-back position, and the only way he goes back on the bench is if he plays himself out of that starting spot. (Besides, Gonzalo Segares' ankle isn't healing as quickly as anticipated.) Matt Watson wasn't bad but he wasn't good also starting in the center of the park in place of Alex. I would still like to see what Joya could do in that spot. Shipp is not letting go of the left mid spot as he continues to impress every one with his decision-making and service. In the other spots, I really don't see any changes at all from Yallop.
For Klopas and his Montreal Impact I would expect the same lineup that was used versus New York last weekend. Expect newly acquired Jack MacInerney to be the first off the bench for Montreal as the 21 year old will be hungry to make a positive impact in what could be his first game suiting up for the black and blue. Justin Mapp and Felipe Martins have been impressive in last few games for Montreal as they have really stepped up their game compared to previous seasons. The thing that can hurt the Impact is the same thing that can hurt the Fire and that is their porous defense. Both teams are struggling to put together good games defensively, and both side's attackers will be looking exploit this weakness.
As for the final score line I'm going to say a 1-1 tie. The only reason I say this is because the game is being held at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal and it has the plastic stuff to play on. We all know how well the Fire play on the fake grass. I hope I'm wrong but the Fire will have to wait another week to try to get its first win of the season.