New York City FC squares off with the Montreal Impact this Sunday in a pivotal Eastern Conference showdown. NYC's lead at the top is precarious following their loss to Sporting KC, and pressure is on to get a result against the likes of a dangerous Montreal Impact team lurking in the top four.
Mount Royal Soccer writer John Richan stops by the blog to answer our Impact questions, giving us the scoop on the team's recent run of form, the tactical changes that have improved the side, and the chemistry forming in the defense.
J. Finding consistency has been one of the biggest challenges this season for the Impact (even with all the draws). Montreal is going through a stretch where almost everything they do seems to end up in a draw. On the plus side, this has probably been the most successful season they have ever had in terms of road performances. Even though some may be disappointed with the last two draws, getting points on the Road against Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers is impressive. On the flip side of things, dropping points has felt disappointing at times and I think some of this can be attributed to injuries and player absences up to this point. Midfielder Marco Donadel and defender Donny Toia have missed much of the season to this point while Laurent Ciman missed nearly a month with Belgium as part of Euro 2016.
J. The 4-2-3-1 formation is one that the Impact have implemented frequently over the last few seasons. With the good start to the season and some of the injuries, I think that head coach Mauro Biello felt as though he could experiment a bit with the formation and lineup. In a best case scenario I think that the 4-2-3-1 is probably best for the Impact - but again it comes back to which players are available for selection on match day. Having said that, it is good that Biello has tried a few different formations out this season.
Nacho Piatti has been on a role this season and probably functions better out wide. He does have the ability to come into the middle when necessary and is a nice option to have during the match to give the the Montreal attack a little boost.
J. The Impact defense certainly has its ups and downs. Laurent Ciman and Victor Cabrera have really grown together nicely over the last two seasons. One of the concerns has been the physicality of the Impact defenders in the box and it has proved costly while defending set pieces, as seen against Portland earlier this week. You can really see the difference when Ciman is in the lineup. Not only is he one of the best defenders in the league, he also plays a huge role in the organization of the defense when he is in the lineup. An underrated player in the Montreal set up is Donny Toia. He has just returned from a long injury and should be in the starting lineup on Sunday.
J. With Ciman and Piatti set to miss the match Sunday there will be some changes to the Montreal lineup.
Bush - Toia - Lefevre - Cabrera - Camara - Bernier - Alexander - Salazar - Venegas - Ontivero - Drogba
Result Prediction: 2-1 Montreal
Thanks to John Richan and Mount Royal Soccer for answering our questions ahead of the match. Have a different (better) prediction for the match this Sunday? Let us hear it in the comments section.