• Montreal Impact enter game on five match winning streak
• Tweet your thoughts to @KidWeil
• Or email 02, September 2012
8 mins: Montreal press again, but Gaven is clipped and the Crew can get on the ball from the free kick...no they can't - another turn over. Few too many of those early on for Columbus tastes. Montreal probe a little round the Crew box and eventually a cross is sent in and nodded clear without too much drama. But Columbus not looking like the home side at the start.
6 mins: Now Columbus inch forward for the first time fown the right hand side, but they give the ball away and the visitors can build again. Montreal looking patient and cautious in the build up, then suddenly Felipe makes a little dart towards the Crew back line but he's crowded out before he can get a shot off. Columbus try to get forward in response, but a wild O'Rourke swing goes through for an Impact free kick.
4 mins: ...it's knocked into the box and headed clear for the game's first corner. Deep, and not great by Di Vaio. Montreal retain possession and Warner persists in getting a second chance at a shot from the edge of the box. He goes for placement and 'places' it in the big tent behind the goal.
2 mins: Impact get things under way in their usual blue kit. They're pushed back early but then start some patient build up play that ends in them getting a free-kick midway into the Columbus half...
Both sides looking to be lining up in 4-2-3-1's as we kick off...
Unsurprisingly there are a few Chicago Fire fans in the house. They have a trip to Houston tomorrow and tonight's game is a big one for them too.
— Stephen Piggott (@irish_steve) September 1, 2012
@kidweil I love watching Montreal because of the 3 back formation. I can't think of a more experienced trio than Nesta, Ferrari and Rivas!!
Lest you think Stephen's a pure footballing aesthete, bear in mind that he's one of our regular Chicago game previewers and may regard a Montreal win as the lesser of two evils. We're onto you, Piggott.
Columbus Crew: Gruenebaum, Miranda, Marshall, O'Rourke, Vukovic, Gaven, Birchall, Mirosevic, Duka, Higuain, Arrieta
Montreal Impact: Perkins, Brovsky, Rivas, Nesta, Ferrari; Warner, Bernier; Neagle, Felipe, Arnaud; Di Vaio
My illustrious editor @Busfield will be delighted to see ex-Port Vale-ite Birchall in there for the crew...
Gruenebaum back between the sticks for Columbus. He was unlucky to miss out on an All Star shout earlier this year...
Social media is happening. And as usual you're talking amongst yourselves. Don't mind me...
— Graham Randall (@76placidcasual) September 1, 2012
@kidweil Higuain and Arrieta are the key tonight. Arrieta is the Costa Rican Paul Dickov
— Jim Bach (@jpbach) September 1, 2012
@kidweil Actually, Arrietta is the Mesoamerican Pippo Inzaghi.
More taxonomical information as we get it.
With Di Vaio at one end of the field and Nesta at the other, the Impact have acquired a fine pair of Italian bookends for their team, and as with Higuain and Arrieta for their opponents, their arrival has encouraged the players alongside them to step up their game too. Particularly impressive has been Patrice Bernier, who seems to have developed a really nice line in judging his runs behind opposition defenses.
The Impact have five games left after tonight - and this is the start of a run of four games against potential play-off rivals, with the visit of Sporting KC sandwiched between difficult trips to Chicago and Houston. Two potentially easier games against Toronto and New England conclude their season, but the five game sequence that started with that emphatic 3-0 victory over DC last week, is the one that will likely determine how long they stay in the play-off hunt.
So here’s Ian Fraser, of the Crew Union supporters, previewing this one in our MLS weekend previews yesterday:
“Higuain has been magnificent but the offensive production of Arrieta and Gaven shouldn't go unnoticed either. These guys have formed a great chemistry and the rest of the offensive cast is following suit. Saturday is a huge test, Montreal are coming in red hot too. The Crew have been playing tons of games and while they have deep midfield and forward with options to rotate in, the main catalysts Higuain and Arrieta have put in a lot of minutes in the last 2 weeks. After starting 7 straight games with the same back 4, Mendes and Williams figured the only way to get some rest is through injury and suspension. The depth in the defense is not as deep and they will be tested in this game by their tired legs and Montreal. I know the Impact are on a roll but something special is going on in Columbus. Not sure if it is something magical or if it is the angel they have watching over them now but I don't expect it to stop Saturday.”
Higuain’s goals and set pieces and Arrieta’s backline-stretching runs and finishes have been eye-catching, but just as significant has been their impact on their team mates - the likes of Gaven, Duka and Mirosevic look galvanized by the inventiveness alongside them. Earlier this season we were running stories on them somehow staying competitive while creating an incredibly limited number of chances.
It's been a big week for Ohio soccer. No sooner had Caleb Porter, coach of the local Akron NCAA side, been announced as the coach of Portland Timbers from next season, than the Guardian arrived in town carrying the coveted "Media Darlings" trophy (an award brought to you in association with I Can't Believe it's Not Catered), ready for it to be contested by the two form teams in MLS: Columbus Crew and Montreal Impact.
Yes, forget the claims of the free-scoring Sounders, rearview-mirror-dazzling Galaxy, cup-winning Sporting KC, or home-record-hogging New York, right now the attention is on two sides determined to gate crash the play-off party in the East. With both sides on 39 points, a positive result for either team today would see them jump to 4th in the standings, at least temporarily. DC United and Chicago Fire fans will be paying close attention to the outcome of tonight's game.
In the Yellow corner, we have Columbus Crew, and the threat of Arrieta up front and the DP playmaker Federico Higuain pulling strings just behind him. United in grief off the field by the recent untimely death of their young colleague, Kirk Urso, the Columbus side has come together on the field in a sudden burst of free-scoring form, that is all the more remarkable for the rather dour soccer they've been playing up to until recently.
In the Blue corner, or possibly White with blue piping corner, depending on kit choices, we have Montreal Impact, who in a league where timing is everything have just possibly hit form three games too late. The Impact have won five straight and are the most free-scoring expansion side the league has seen, but have also played two or three more games than the teams immediately above them. That said, if they could halt the Crew's charge with a win tonight, some of those teams still have to play each other - and DC United in particular are looking very shaky right now (DC's adventures at similarly stuttering Real Salt Lake may be affected by the outcome of tonight's game).
Anyway, as neutrals, here's hoping both teams keep up their scoring form of late (Columbus have ten in their last four games, Montreal have nine in the same period). To set us up nicely, here's what happened in last week's Crew home game:
So grab your popcorn and I'll be back with more build up and team news shortly. In the meantime let's have your thoughts, predictions and general non-sequiturs to @KidWeil if Twitter's your thing, or email@example.com if you prefer the relaxing sounds of multi-syllabic words like "Warzycha".