Set pieces could prove the difference for Impact, Timbers

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MONTREAL – When the Montreal Impact and the Portland Timbers step onto the Olympic Stadium playing surface on Saturday (2 pm ET, watch LIVE online), two strikingly similar teams – whether it's in terms of history, style or form – will be squaring off.

Both teams have a lower-division past dating back to the 20th century and both are still making their first steps in MLS. In the short-term, they've been struggling away from home this season and stylistically, neither one shies away from the physical side of the game.

However, the extensive work done on set pieces in training implies the Montreal staff feels it's found an area where they say a little daylight between the two sides. Head coach Jesse Marsch and his aides are wary of the threat the Timbers pose on set plays, and the Impact have admittedly made some mistakes since the start of the campaign.

“Against Portland, set pieces play a major role,” Marsch told reporters on Friday. “We’re just trying to make sure we’re alert and committed at different moments in the game and that we understand how we want to handle the moments where we’re organized. We know that, specifically tomorrow, that will be a big element of our success."

Against a team which likes to set the tone physically, it will be crucial for the Impact players, whose last competitive action was 10 days ago, to make their fresh legs count early on.

They will also be looking to take advantage from the fact that Portland will not be able to rely on the Timbers Army, which had provided an extra wrinkle for visiting teams at JELD-WEN Field.

However, the Impact’s away form has been patchy in their brief MLS tenure. Nonetheless, Montreal captain Davy Arnaud feels Portland's point tally doesn’t reflect their quality, and expects a tough and entertaining game on Saturday against a team captained by good friend Jack Jewsbury.

“We know they’re a good team,” Arnaud said. “Where they are in the table doesn’t necessarily show what kind of team they are. They’re going to be tough, we know that, and we can’t be complacent.

“If you come out against any team in the league, and you’re complacent and you take anything for granted, you’re going to get punished. It doesn’t matter who it is.”