MONTREAL – Newly inked Montreal Impact striker Marco Di Vaio would be the first to tell you: Montrealers know how to throw a welcome party.
There will be a greeting committee waiting when Brian Ching and the Houston Dynamo visit on Saturday as well (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). Of course, the warmth of their welcome is up for discussion.
Impact head coach Jesse Marsch made a statement at the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft when he used his No. 1 pick to pry Ching away from Houston. Ching had made it clear beforehand that he wanted to remain the Dynamo captain and reiterated during his first interview with the Montreal media that he “would love to finish [his] career in Houston.”
Fittingly, the Impact have centered their promotion efforts for this game on that very quote, and while Marsch recognizes that Ching was thoroughly professional during his brief spell with the club, he does feel his return to Montreal makes this game very special for the Stade Saputo faithful.
“They should feel passionate about the Ching situation,” Marsch told reporters on Friday. “I think that Brian, for all his service to our team, was great while he was here. In the end, he’s on the other side of the field and there was a lot of drama to the whole situation. Listen, when I go to Houston, I’m sure I'm going to get a certain kind of welcome as well, so I hope that he gets that here. But again, it's going to be important for us to focus on the game."
The Impact began their preparation for Houston with a video session before training on Friday, and it seems that they will stress some things they had tried to emphasize in their midweek 2-1 loss to Chivas USA.
“I think the root of our problems and the result was, again, the same story,” Davy Arnaud said. “We do enough to get a result, and we have lapses on simple situations … well, not simple situations, but things that aren’t so much soccer-related. It’s set pieces. It’s crosses. It's what the coaches had said were going to be so important for that game, and we didn’t do a good enough job.”
Montreal indeed fell victim to a corner kick and a cross from the left in the loss, a situation that, for all the Impact’s good work at different moments, has presented itself far too often this season and could happen again on Saturday.
“Houston's probably the best team in the league at set pieces,” Marsch stated. “They get really good service, they have big guys that make good runs and are good with their head, so we’ve got to deal with that in the right way.”