Playoff Preview: New York Red Bulls at Montreal Impact

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

Having watched their old enemy get upset on their home field on Thursday night, the Red Bulls head North to take on the Montreal Impact in the first leg of an Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

The Impact skidded into the MLS postseason, winning just two of their last eight matches, but nevertheless blitzed DC United this week, shocking the hosts by taking a three-nil lead en route to a 4-2 knockout round victory. New York is a favorite to advance to MLS Cup, and comes in red hot to their first-ever match-up with the Impact in postseason play.

Can New York continue their unbeaten run to open the playoffs? Or will Nacho Piatti put the pressure on the Red Bulls in the second leg?


Match Information

Sunday, October 30th at Stade Saputo. 3pm ET kickoff

TV/Streaming: ESPN/ESPN Deportes/Watch ESPN

Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio

Referee: Robert Sibiga

Record: GF/GA, Division & League Position, Current League Form

Montreal: 45 points from 34 gms, 49GF/53GA, 5th in the East, 11th in MLS, WWDLW

Playoffs: d. DC United, 4-2 in Knockout Round

New York: 57 points from 34 gms, 61GF/44GA, 1st in the East, 3rd in MLS, DWWWW

2016 Season Series:

March 12 at Olympic Stadium: MTL 3 (Oduro 58, Piatti 71, Jackson-Hamel 94+), NY 0

August 13 at Red Bull Arena: NY 3 (BWP 22 & 41, Davis 46), MTL 1 (Piatti 21)

September 24 at Red Bull Arena: NY 1 (Royer 60), MTL 0


Projected Lineups

Montreal

MTLvNY

New York

NYvMTL


The Montreal Attack vs. the Red Bulls Back Line

Matteo Mancuso vs. Kemar Lawrence, Aurelien Collin, Damien Perrinelle, Chris Duvall, and Luis Robles

Mancosu, who joined the Impact this summer on loan from Italian club Bologna, notched a brace in DC on Thursday night, scoring once with his feet and once with his head on balls coming from his left. The two-goal outburst was his first in MLS, after scoring just three goals in 15 appearances this season. Of course, the specter of estranged forward Didier Drogba playing in the match is something New York will have to deal with. Drogba didn’t play in the knockout round and watched from the stands.  The Red Bulls defense posted clean sheets in two of the club’s last four regular season matches, all won by New York. The Red Bulls have blanked Montreal over the last 169 minutes the clubs have played against each other. For much of the second half of the season, New York dropped points after taking leads in matches, but the club has seemed to have solve the issue over the last month, aside from a scare against Columbus. Luis Robles finished the season with eleven shutouts, the most in MLS this year.

Advantage: Even


The New York forward vs. the Impact Defense

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Ambroise Oyongo, Laurent Ciman, Victor Cabrera, Hassoun Camara, and Evan Bush

All-everything BWP has scored more goals over a three-year span than anyone else in MLS history. His Golden Boot-winning goal last week in Philadelphia was a thing of beauty, settling a perfect ball from Aurelien Collin, popping it over the Union before slotting it home. Wright-Phillips has scored 15 goals over New York’s last 13 league matches. Montreal rested two of the club’s four backline regulars in the season-ending three-nil loss at New England that didn’t mean much for either club. Thursday night, all-star Laurent Ciman’s first goal of the season opened the scoring off a corner kick. Former Red Bull Ambroise Oyongo nabbed an assist against DC as well. Right back Hassoun Camara took a knock to his head in the knockout match, but returned to finish the match. Keeper Bush went 11-11-11 for the season with six clean sheets.

Slight Advantage: New York


The Midfields

Ignacio Piatti, Hernan Bernadello, Marco Donadel, Patrice Bernier, and Dom Oduro vs. Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Felipe, and Alex Muyl

While Montreal played a 4-1-4-1 in DC, in the last match between the clubs, coach Biello started in a 4-3-3. The Impact has succeeded during the Drogba fracas on the quality and skill of Nacho Piatti, who racked up a goal and an assist in Thursday’s knockout game. Piatti (17G/6A) is the player that Felipe and Dax McCarty most need to neutralize in order to escape Montreal with a result on Sunday. The defensive-minded Bernadello (1G/1A) took all of three shots this season.  Donadel (4A) lined up between the defenders and midfield at DC this week. The 37 year-old Bernier (1A) started, but didn’t, finish five of the Impact’s last seven league matches. Speedster Oduro (6G/6A) who had a cup of coffee with the Red Bulls in 2009, is the key to Montreal’s bunker & counter strategy when playing New York. His ability to stretch the defense, if not his finishing prowess, is well known in his 11th season in the league.  New York’s midfield is in stellar form, led by the MLS assist leader Kljestan (6G/20A). The USMNT midfielder had 10 assists in the Red Bulls’ last 13 matches.  Alex Muyl picked up his second goal of his rookie campaign last week in Philadelphia. Mike Grella may give way to a now-healthy Danny Royer in Sunday’s match.

Advantage: New York


The Coaches

Mauro Biello has his club in the Conference Semifinals for the second straight season, a feat matched only by Jesse Marsch and FC Dallas’ Oscar Pareja.  He’s deftly managed his pouty global superstar while getting just enough for his “MLS Superstar” in Piatti. While Montreal hasn’t overachieved this season, the Impact’s win at a supposedly red-hot DC raised eyebrows across the league. Marsch has got to keep his team focused from the first whistle, and ensure that his more emotional players (Collin, Felipe, Kljestan) stay out of yellow card trouble. The 2015 Coach of the Year needs to judiciously use his substitutes and have his team rack up as many early road goals as possible, to try and end the series before it even gets to Red Bull Arena.

Slight Advantage: New York


Intangibles

The Impact was a tepid 7-5-5 at home this season, playing both at Stade Olympique and Stade Saputo. New York was only 3-7-7 away from Harrison, but will be buoyed by last week’s win at Philadelphia. The Red Bulls are 8-4-3 all-time against the Impact, but have only a single win in Quebec in club history: a five-two victory in March of 2012 in the first MLS match between the club. The home team has won the last four matches in the series. New York has scored fourteen goals in the club’s last seven road matches, and in a series where road goals have extra meaning, the Red Bulls will be confident. Montreal has conceded ten goals over the Impact’s last four home matches. The forecast for Sunday in Quebec is for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high forties.  A small and dedicated group of Red Bulls supporters will make the trip.

Advantage: Even


Prediction:

New York has had no issue scoring goals away from home, and will find the net Sunday. Montreal will give their best punch, knocking in some of their own. Multiple yellow cards will be doled out in a very physical match. At the final whistle, the teams will walk off the pitch at two goals a piece, and New York will head back home knowing that the friendly confines await in the second leg.