Preview: New York Red Bulls at Montreal Impact

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

Week one for the Red Bulls was an exercise in frustration.

Despite a massive possession advantage, New York only managed a single shot on goal and succumbed to counterattacks in a humbling 2-0 home loss — the first loss ever to Toronto at Red Bull Arena.  With another Canadian club up next, the Red Bulls will have to perform without starting centerback Ronald Zubar, who was suspended by the MLS Disciplinary Committee after a reckless tackle against TFC’s Lovitz.  Thrust into the starting lineup will be former Impact Karl Ouimette.

Will a potent Montreal attack feast on their former player? Can the Red Bulls win on the horrible plastic pitch of the Big O?


Match Information:

Saturday, March 12th at Stade Olympique. 4:00p ET kickoff
TV/Streaming: MSG+/MSG2/MSG GO (for Optimum and Xfinity subscribers)
Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio
Referee: Drew Fischer

Regular Season Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position
Montreal, 3 points from 1 match, 3GF/2GA, t-1th in the East, t-1st in MLS
New York, 0 points from 1 match, 0GF/2GA, t-6th in the East, t-13th in MLS


 

Projected Lineups:

Montreal Impact

MTL v NY

New York

NY v MTL


Montreal’s front line vs. the Red Bull defense:
Dom Oduro vs. Kemar Lawrence, Gideon Baah, Karl Ouimette, and Sal Zizzo (and Luis Robles).

With Didier Drogba avoiding the Stade Olympique turf, Dom Oduro will get the call for the second straight week. Oduro, somehow in his eleventh season in MLS, has played for seven clubs over his career. The Ghanaian speedster with the amazing hair scored last week at Vancouver in his club’s 3-2 opening day victory, but Oduro’s numbers have fallen off over the last few years. After his MLS career 13 tallies for Columbus in 2013, Oduro has only scored 11 times in 53 matches since.  Looking at the scoreline, one would think that the Red Bulls backline played poorly against Toronto in the opener, but for the most part, the group played well. Gideon Baah was terrific in his New York debut, and Lawrence’s PK call was questionable. Zubar, despite the fans’ ire, played well outside of the hit on Lovitz that will cost him the Montreal match. Obviously Ouimette will be the target for the Impact attack. The Quebec native and first Montreal homegrown player played 20 times for the Impact from 2012-2014 before joining New York last season. He’ll be energized playing against his home town club. Against Toronto, Sal Zizzo was reluctant to make overlapping runs ahead of Sam, stunting the Red Bulls’ attack.

Advantage: Even


New York’s attackers vs. the Impact defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips and Mike Grella vs. Ambroise Oyongo, Laurent Ciman, Victor Cabrera, and Donny Toia (and Evan Bush).

Only a single shot on frame from a pair of attackers that combined for twenty-six goals last season would make even a casual fan take notice.  However, Jesse Marsch insists that Bradley Wright-Phillips and Mike Grella simply need to sharpen their finishing skills in order to put the ball in the back of the net. The Impact defense conceded twice to Vancouver last week, and yet took home the victory. Former Red Bull Oyongo is starting his second season in Montreal, and was just called into the Cameroonian African Cup of Nations qualifying roster (along with New York’s Anatole Abang).  Belgian International Laurent Ciman was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2015, his first season with the Impact. Cabrera, a 23 year-old Argentine on loan from River Plate, played in all three of Montreal’s three playoff matches last season, picking up a single assist. Toia has played for RSL, Chivas and Montreal in his short MLS career. The Arizona native had one goal in thirty-one appearances in 2015. Evan Bush made a number spectacular acrobatic saves to keep his side on top at BC Place last week.

Advantage: Even


The Midfields:
Harrison Shipp, Marco Donadel, Ignacio Piatti, Eric Alexander, and  Lucas Ontivero vs Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty, Felipe, and Lloyd Sam.

Whitecaps fans thinking their club would face an easy opponent without Drobga were in for a rude awakening, as Ignacio Piatti dropped two goals (including the MLS Goal of the Week) and an assist on Vancouver in Montreal’s opening day win. Shipp (1A) joins the Impact after two breakout seasons on poor Chicago Fire sides. Former Red Bull Eric Alexander had a strong performance last week, generating chances while negating Vancouver attacks. Ontivero is an Argentinean journeyman that comes to Montreal from Galatasaray in Turkey.  Italian Donadel was third on the Impact assist chart last season with five.  New York’s midfield performance last week wasn’t horrible, but the group was unable to penetrate the TFC defense with diagonal passes or looping balls. Only McCarty (1) and Sam (3) were able to get shots at the Toronto goal, and New York only took two corners all afternoon. Felipe and Kljestan worked hard, but had little to show for their efforts. They’ll all need to take their game to another level on Saturday for New York to get a better result.

Slight Advantage: Montreal


The Coaches:

Montreal Coach Biello leveraged his club’s acquisition of Drogba and took his side to last season’s playoffs and past rival TFC before falling in extra time to Columbus in the conference semis. Biello, a former USL Impact player is also the club’s Director of Player Personnel, and will be judged on his ability to get results out of newcomers Shipp and Ontivero. Jesse Marsch chalked up last week’s performance to a lack of sharpness, but his squad scored with regularity during the preseason.  New York’s inability to break down a bunkering-countering opponent may cost the Red Bulls dearly as the season goes on.

Advantage: Even


Intangibles:

The Red Bulls are on a 4-0-2 streak against Montreal in league play, having not lost to the Impact since March of 2013 when a Marco DiVaio goal beat New York 1-0 at Stade Olympique.  The Impact did win the Concacaf Champions League group stage in 2014 by handling New York 1-0-1.  Last season, Lloyd Sam bundled home a goal to earn a 1-1 draw at Stade Saputo in the Red Bulls’ lone trip to Montreal.  This year, the clubs will play three times, with the Impact coming to Harrison on August 13th and September 24th. In 2015, New York went 7-3-0 in matches following a loss. Saturday’s match will be played inside at crumbling Stade Olympique as the Impact wait for spring to come to Montreal to move outside to nearby Stade Saputo. More than 30,000 tickets have been sold to the Impact’s home opener.

Advantage: Montreal


Prediction:
After an exhilarating win in Vancouver, Montreal will be riding high into their home opener, and with a big crowd behind them, will take the early momentum. If New York can score first, they’ll quiet the home fans down and have a better chance of escaping with a point. The Impact won’t bunker like TFC, opening things up for the Red Bulls. I see goals from Piatti, BWP, Shipp, and Grella in a tense 2-2 draw.