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Sounders vs. Montreal Impact: Three Questions

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The international break is over. This is a good thing. It means that the Seattle Sounders will try to win their first competitive match of 2016. The bad news, though, is that Saturday's opponent in the 7 PM game on Q13 is the Montreal Impact, the current Eastern Conference leader.

The Impact score two goals a game (more bad news), but give up more than a goal a game (pretty good news). There is some even better news: Didier Drogba does not start in games on artificial surfaces, and Seattle should have all of its players back from the break. Only Friberg and Torres are starting-quality players who are 100% out.

John from Mount Royal Soccer answers Three Questions.

SaH: Can anyone hope to stop Ignacio Piatti?

MRS: Piatti has looked very dangerous so far to start 2016. This is the most focused and prepared Impact fans have seen the Argentine since he joined Montreal near the end of the 2014 season. Piatti looks to have benefited from having Harry Shipp and Lucas Ontivero play alongside him in the midfield. Perhaps it has taken some of the pressure off. Although Piatti has been great so far in the early part of 2016, FC Dallas was able to completely shutdown Nacho and the entire Montreal midfield a couple weeks ago in Texas. In short, I think it is fair to say: As the Montreal midfield go...Piatti goes.

SaH: Is Laurent Ciman going to play? How does his presence/absence change the game?

MRS: He should be good to go. Late last week Ciman came off the practice field after picking up a knock, which initially looked a lot worse than it was. However he trained throughout the week and appears ready. His presence cannot be understated when he features in the starting XI. His aggressiveness, ability to break up plays, make inch perfect tackles, and force turnovers are a few of the reasons why he made the 2015 MLS All-Star team. However the leadership he brings will be crucial if Montreal are to have long term success in 2016. The passion he plays with is second to none.

SaH: Are you over Drogba being scared of turf?

MRS: Personally, I found the turf issue completely overblown from the beginning. The moment Drogba confirmed he would be returning to Montreal, no Drogba on turf should have been almost a given to those that followed the team closely in 2015. Drogba did feature in a couple of games late down the stretch, but they were really 'do-or-die' games for Montreal. The fact that so many of the games early in 2016 are taking place on turf has only exacerbated the situation. The Impact know what they have in Drogba and want to ensure that he will be ready to help out again throughout the summer months and going into the playoffs.

Projected lineup: Bush, Toia, Ciman, Cabrera, Camara, Bernier(!), Alexander, Shipp, Piatti, Ontivero, Oduro


reverse

MRS: If you had to use three words to describe what has gone wrong for the Sounders so far this season what would they be?

SaH: Disappointment - Losing Martins just before the season started shattered expectations of a team that could compete in the CCL, for the Shield and for the MLS Cup.

Misfortune - A crappy deserved red card, injuries, and an absurd penalty ruined what should have been three enjoyable competitive games.

Melancholy - Or maybe acceptance. This is what the Sounders are right now. They aren't good, but they aren't awful. Only the standings are horrible, so maybe we are awful.

MRS: What did the loss of Obafemi Martins mean the Sounders? Who is the player that the Impact will have to mark extra carefully this weekend in his absence?

SaH: Last year when Oba played, Seattle was nearly certain of a goal in games he played. They don't have that now. While Clint Dempsey is a potential MVP, candidate Martins was always an MVP candidate. Together the two were incredibly potent. Now, the offense just isn't ticking.

Most teams these days are taking the lack of options to mark Clint out of the game. If you take him out, then Seattle depends on a mix of Valdez, Morris and Ivanschitz to get a goal. So far that's working for opponents.

MRS: Is Jordan Morris the real deal? Does he pose a legitimate threat to the Montreal defence this weekend?

SaH: He's going to have a fine season. Players don't just have the bona fides he earned in high school, the Academy and at Stanford then fail in MLS. But it may not happen at the pace of the hype train. He's a better center forward than a winger, but he's on the wing usually. He didn't get a preseason with the team due to National Team duties, so he's still figuring out how to work with his teammates. In the end he'll be an 8-10 goal guy with 5+ assists. That's a great season and probably a rookie of the year, but it's no Larin.

Projected lineup: Frei; J.Jones, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Alonso, Roldan, Ivanschitz; Dempsey, Morris, Valdez

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