Montreal started the season with a grueling schedule, covering the CCL and MLS play. Then after the CCL ended they went straight into the Amway Canadian Championship. As a result they have played the least amount of games in the league with only 17. They sit in 8th place in the east with a meh (this is the proper term) PPG of 1.24, good enough for 5th in the conference. They are at least a playoff contender, though if they had won their games in hand that they have played so far, they'd be in 2nd not 8th, with more in hand to go.
The Impact are the only Eastern Conference side that plays in Canada that has not spent billions (presumably) on USMNT player. Joey Saputo a true dairy king, prefers to bring in Italian players as he's also the Chairman of Bologna. Instead of Sebastian Giovinco, he settled on Ignacio Piatti, who is still pretty good. There are talks of him bringing in Didier Drogba but that will not be complete before Saturday, so you can breathe easier.
They hail from the French Province of Canada and why is that important? It's not, but I like Montreal smoked-meat and that deserved to be mentioned. With that all being said, let's dive into the how they play.
They are an aggressive side that thrives on getting players in behind a defense. The midfielders will run at players and find runners at the last second. The aim of the Montreal attack is to run at the CBs with Piatti. When the defender steps up and to stop him, he'll push a through ball wide to Andres Romero or Dilly Duka or up front to Jack McInerney (and sometimes Dominic Oduro).
The statistics are slightly askew since for about half the season Piatti did not trust his strikers and would play wide almost exclusively to Romero out right, the only player he really trusted. Since that point the attack has balanced out a bit but still only a fourth of the attacks will go up the middle. The problem with this is that McInerney, the main forward, is poor in the air. Dominic Oduro, the backup, is even worse. This means that most balls end up back in the middle via cutbacks on the ground which mitigates the impact (pun kind of intended) of Chad Marshall and Zach Scott's aerial ability.
Through balls are not easy to calculate, statistically speaking. Most through balls are seen as long balls and some even are short passes. But overall it is best to view long balls as through balls based on Opta and MLS stats. This puts it about 16% of passes, are long balls, which comes out to about 70 balls a game. The error for which are not through balls but are just long balls is equal to what short passes are really through balls. Montreal hits a through ball about once a minute, which is a lot of through balls.
It will take a focused Ozzie Alonso to stop this. Whoever his CM partner is going to have to track back more than usual to protect both Alonso and the CBs. It stop balls from going wide if there is someone in the passing lane on each side, a CB and a CM, and Ozzie fronting Piatti.
12th, 12th in the league at interceptions per game. They average 18.2 per game. While it sounds like they aren't that good at them, ranking in the bottom half, pair this with being tied for 5th in tackles, their aggressive play leads to a lot of turnovers. In comparison, the Sounders rank last in interceptions and 12th in tackles.
Think of it this way:
1. Montreal will cede possession, happily. They average 49% but that is only because they have to play a lot bunkering squads in the Eastern Conference, as well as playing SKC last week.
2. They will not high press. This is not SJ or Colorado or a handful of other squads that are good at it. They sit back and try to control the midfield. Marco Donadel and Calum Mallace, the DMs squeeze attackers. Pair this with a fairly consistent defensive line and you get great chemistry on the defensive side of the ball.
3. They strike quickly. There have been plenty of chemistry issues but they are purely between Piatti and the striker(s). Piatti and Donadel specifically have great chemistry. Donadel and Mallace can get the ball to Piatti in the time it takes you to blink. It is up to the Argentine playmaker to do something with it and that'll be covered more later.
Montreal has a lot of selfish players, not hot heads with egos but they are selfish. When on the wing, Oduro just likes to run past defenders, then look for teammates, leading to poor plays. Ignacio loves to dribble, dribble all the way into the net. There are plenty of times he will pass it, but probably for every pass he makes, he will have dribbled into a turnover at least once. The less confidence he has in his strikers, the more likely he does this. Andres Romero is the beneficiary of Piatti having little confidence in Jack Mac and Oduro. Romero, a fellow Argentine, is another selfish winner. He'll take the ball to the corner before looking up.
The Impact is a team full of individuals and not a team full of teammates. The defense gets along and will cover for each other but offensively, not so much.
Poor in the Air-
Their average starter stands at about 5' 10.5" but they aren't strong and they are poor at jumping. Think Flaco but shorter. The Sounders starting lineup (that appeared against COL) averages almost 6'. With three players known for top level aerial ability and a couple more strong aerial players. The Sounders can take advantage of this, while the team typically has superiority in the air, thank you Air Marshall, that is against average teams. It'll only grow in this one. While our best players in the air are not typically on offense, watch for Rose to make late runs and get on the end of Thomas and Roldan crosses. Set pieces will be another tactical advantage for the side.
The lack of ability in the air means that high crosses are minimal for Montreal, taking away our best defense advantage. Marshall and Scott will have to be great with their feet, like Tyrone Mears has been, in order to seal another perfect defensive performance.
As you would expect, a team that is poor in the air, is poor on heading set pieces. A fourth of their goals are off set pieces, which looks really good on paper (six of 24, with another three being PKs). Full disclosure here, offensively I can not tell you how every goal was scored. I can confirm three things:
1. It is a different scorer for every free kick goal.
2. There is only ONE assist between the six goals.
3. Two were scored via headers.
They have a couple of great shot takers who can whip in a perfect ball from 30 yards out. They also can clean up scraps. They CAN be dangerous, but only if the rebound is on the ground.
MTL is weak. They are not strong in the air, their tallest outfield player is 6' 1" (same as the GK). Calum Mallace will have to mark Chad Marshall, leaving Scott free against a weaker defender, who while the same height, can not jump as high as the Flyin' Hawaiian.
The Sounders this season have not converted well on set pieces with only two of 25 goals coming from them but without our regular strikeforce of Clintfemi, it is even more important that we use our height advantage.
Players to Watch-
1. Ignacio Piatti- I've talked a lot about Piatti already so I think you get the gist of it. He's a great dribbler and pretty good passer. He is selfish and will dribble from goal line to goal line if you let him. If he has confidence in the lone striker, he'll play the ball forward all night. If he doesn't he'll dribble until he loses the ball or passes back and out to a winger or Donadel/Mallace. If you want him to play poorly, make sure Oduro starts.
2. Jack McInerney- The more confident of the two striker options. After never truly catching on in the revolving door that is Philadelphia, he has started to become a consistent threat with the Impact. Jack Mac is the second best goal scorer for the Impact, tied with Oduro for four goals, behind Piatti's six. Piatti has started to trust Mac but he did not start in KC due to a late injury and it showed. If they think he can goal, he will. It is a must for their offense. Oduro can score as a winger, not as a striker.
3. Laurent Ciman- Frankly the last spot could be Andres Romero or Marco Donadel easily but I decided on the outfield player with the most minutes, playing the full 90 in 16 of the 17 matches. The 29-year old Belgian center half is the most consistent defender on this line. He's got a free kick goal and assist. Only has picked up three yellows this year and is a great passer out of the back, completing 80% of his passes. Without Clintfemi, it'll be much harder to get past him but if the Sounders continue to attack via the wings they can neutralize his presence.
They play one formation and one formation only, 4-2-3-1.
Defensively they are strong, they have had pretty consistent starters but after trading Bakary Soumare to FC Dallas for Kyle Bekker, the defense is a bit shakier. Victor Cabrera has played in eight matches but only started one, last week against SKC. The fullbacks are typically the same with a small rotation but strong chemistry.
Midfield never changes, baring injuries and suspension, of which they have no major new ones. Dilly Duka and Andres Romero are healthy and will start out wide. Piatti at CAM (yes a CAM). Marco Donadel and Calum Mallace have no knocks and will start in the midfield. Consistency is key and they've got it.
Dominic Oduro started last match with McInerney was hurt last week but likely is back this week unless he is another late scratch.
The Impact are full of injuries and a few of them are pretty good players and names you may know. Cameron Porter is a young kid that was playing great to start the season, playing once in the MLS and a couple of CCL matches. He's out for the year. Some guy you may know of played a whole four minutes this year before needing knee surgery, his name is.....Kenny Cooper!!
Impact subs (intended pun again) have missed training as of late, Eric Alexander, Hassoun Camara, and Justin Mapp may or may not appear on the bench. None showed on the bench in Kansas and have yet to practice this week but injury reports have been pretty mum from the Canadian Side.
Sounders may or may not have Stefan Frei and will not have Marco Pappa, Andy Craven, and Obafemi Martins for sure this weekend.
I expect the same starting lineup that played against Colorado, except Dylan Remick starting at left back.