Preview: New York Red Bulls at Montreal Impact

IMAGE, IMPACTMONTREAL.COM

Neither the New York Red Bulls nor the Montreal Impact have tasted victory this season.

Will either do so this Saturday?

For now, it seems the odds are stacked in Montreal’s favor. The Red Bulls will be without key contributors Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Jamison Olave. To make matters worse, Richard Eckersley will also miss the encounter in Montreal, leaving the responsibility at fullback on the shoulders of a hobbled Kosuke Kimura. Moreover, Marco Di Vaio will be making his first appearance of the season in front of the Impact faithful after suffering a three-game suspension to start the season.

New York will have to rely on its infamous depth to make a game out of this one. Here is how the two sides stack up:

Match Information:
Saturday, April 6th at 4 p.m. ET

Record, GF/GA, Final Division and League Position, Recent Form:
New York, three points in four games, 4GF/7GA, 8th in the East
Montreal, one point in four games, 3GF/7GA, 9th in the East

Impact Forwards v. Red Bull Defense

Marco Di Vaio v. Kosuke Kimura, Armando, Ibrahim Sekagya, Roy Miller
Di Vaio can be considered a Red Bull killer. Through four games against their Eastern Conference rivals, Di Vaio has scored three goals and consistently caused fits for the Red Bull defense — with or without Jamison Olave. Sekagya and Armando proved to be a weak combination against Vancouver, failing to track their assignments and consistently getting beaten by slashing runs and long balls. If Montreal manage to find Di Vaio in space, it will be a long day for New York’s defense.
Advantage: Montreal

Red Bull Forwards v. Impact Defense

Bradley Wright-Phillips v. Eric Miller, Matteo Ferrari, Hassoun Camara, Heath Pearce
The Red Bulls will be missing their top guns up top. Henry is out with his medically excused turf absence while Tim Cahill carries injury into the match. Like Di Vaio, Bradley Wright-Phillips will be placed with the attacking honus in a modified 4-5-1. Also like his Italian counterpart, Wright-Phillips faces a backline that has been porous through most of the season.
Advantage: Push

The Midfield Battle

Peguy Luyindula, Lloyd Sam, Bobby Convey, Dax McCarty, Eric Alexander v. Hernan Bernardello, Patrice Bernier, Justin Mapp, Felipe Martins, Andres Romero
Romero, like Di Vaio, will be playing his first match in front of the Impact faithful after a lengthy suspension. He joins a midfield that is high on talent, but low on productivity this year. Bernier always manages to play his best against the Red Bulls. He along with Bernardello will make for an interesting battle, particularly in the face of McCarty and Alexander. The key for New York will be Peguy Luyindula, who will likely play a withdrawn forward role closer resembling that of a classic enganche. While hobbled, the Red Bull midfield is at least familiar, which can be enough for them to win the halfline battle.
Advantage: Red Bulls

The Coaches

Frank Klopas finally has a full-strength squad and choices to make this Saturday. With Di Vaio and Romero back, plus the impending addition of Jack McInerney, the Impact suddenly seem more contender than pretender. Klopas will look to turn the naysayers around with a strong performance at home, but will have to overcome some team rust in order to do it. Petke, meanwhile, will be perfectly content playing the counter. New York made that an art form late last year en route to the Supporters’ Shield. With all the depletion on his side, it will be the only option on the table, but one Petke is at least familiar with.
Advantage: Petke

Intangibles

Both teams are looking for the first win of the season. Montreal will be doing so at home, with the support of their fans, against a hobbled opponent. They will also have extra motivation from one flank as Heath Pearce will likely try to make an “Impact” of his own against his former club. New York are properly equipped to deal with such a problem, but clearly, the advantage lies with Montreal.
Advantage: Impact.

Prediction: 3-1 Montreal

The 4-5-1 will be on display Saturday, both as a force for defense by the Red Bulls and one for possession and offense by the Impact. With Henry and Cahill out, Di Vaio has every opportunity to steal the show in front of a well-attended crowd at Le Stade Olympique. The flat-footed nature of the Red Bulls’ centerback tandem can be easily exposed if Romero and company can send incisive passes forward, exposing their Italian scorer up top and pressuring Luis Robles into uncomfortable situations. New York may get the better of possession, but Montreal will do better to make theirs count.