The Portland Timbers are back on the road for this weekend’s match against their old USL-era foes the Montreal Impact. The Impact are currently in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, but this is MLS and the flight from Portland to Montreal is a long one, so the Timbers will need to step up if they want to get a result across the border.
To get an idea of just what the Timbers will be facing from the Impact, we spoke with Peter Alper of SB Nation’s Impact blog, Mount Royal Soccer.
Coming into this weekend, the Impact are stuck at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. What has been going wrong for the Impact and is there any reason to hope that the side can turn things around?
The Montreal Impact have shown some bright spots this season but the thing that has gone wrong the most this season is defensive mistakes that lead to goals. Many times the Montreal Impact have a lead late in a game and concede a goal on the counter-attack because of how bad the defenders positioned themselves. The Montreal Impact are probably the most team on defending set pieces in the MLS, which was what basically caused them to lose to TFC in the ECF last season.
I think there still is hope for the Montreal Impact this season, we recently signed midfielder Dzemaili who showed some brilliance with Piatti last weekend and also added an assist that game. Also, many injuries this season on our backline has weakened us defensively, Hassoun Camara who won team MVP last season as been missed in the back alongside Victor Cabrera. I do think there's a possibility the Montreal Impact make the playoffs this season, what we saw in Seattle last season shows no ones out of the race until you're mathematically out.
After an All-Star year in 2016, Laurent Ciman seems to have fallen off in 2017, struggling alongside the rest of the Montreal defense. Where are the side's back line troubles coming from and how important is Ciman's form to the Impact's defensive performance?
The backlines troubles, like I said in the last question, are coming from injuries and usual bench players getting the starting role. Kyle Fisher for the last couple of games has been slotted right next to Laurent Ciman in the CB role, getting drafted in 2016 Fisher isn't a bad player but the to be biting more defensively which have led to costly goals this season.
Ciman’s form to the Montreal Impact this season could make or break the team, if he steps up his game to the level he played in 2015 when he won MLS defender of the year we could potentially see a better rounded defensive core which is needed right now with all the injuries.
Who have been the Impact's top contributors so far in this start to the season and who will need to step up against the Timbers for Montreal to get a result at home?
So far this season I'd have to say, Patrice Bernier has contributed the most he's been great in the middle of the park and is currently leading the team in assists. Anohter person, I'd have to give recognition to is Anthony Jackson-Hamel, hes tied in team lead in goals with Piatti and has come off the bench this season to score some pretty clutch goals for the Montreal Impact that has given us some points.
A player who needs to step up big time for the Impact would have to be Laurent Ciman. He hasn't been the best defensively this season and like I said before he's caused the Impacts some goals. If he playing at top form this weekend versus the Timbers the Impact may have a chance to get 3 points at home.
Projected starting 11: (4-2-3-1) Bush, Duvall, Ciman, Fisher, Oyongo, Bernier, Donadel, Dzemaili, Ballou, Piatti and Oduro.