MONTREAL – The Chicago Fire’s Ghanaian duo of Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko aren’t sneaking up on anyone.
What they will do, however, is run right past you.
That’s the scenario head coach Jesse Marsch and the Montreal Impact are hoping to prevent on Saturday at Olympic Stadium (2 pm ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in US) against a Fire side that boasts a front line that possesses sprinter’s speed and a midfield engineered to get Oduro and Nyarko to the finish line.
For the Impact, the best way to keep the pair in check is simply to give them less track to work with.
“You try to limit the space that they can exploit behind because that’s how they’re most dangerous, especially Dominic,” Marsh said. “I think we just have to be smart about our backline; what decisions they make when now there’s time on the ball so that they’re not leaving too much space for Dominic to really exploit.”
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Boiled down to basics, Montreal can ill afford the kind of costly turnovers that present chances for the Fire’s creative influences – Sebastián Grazzini, Marco Pappa, Pável Pardo and Nyarko – to spring Oduro into space on one of Chicago’s lightning quick counterattacks.
The Fire aren’t shy about acknowledging their strengths, either. Head coach Frank Klopas knows what he has up top, and will encourage his players to take advantage of that upper-echelon speed whenever possible.
On the other hand, Marsch is busy reminding his players, especially a rear guard that gave up possession far too much a week ago, that their play and positioning is the first step to preventing Chicago from springing on the counter.
“Now, more than anything, we have to be extremely intelligent about what’s happening when we have the ball,” Marsch said, “so that when it turns over, we’re not susceptible to the speed that they have up front.”
Braun encouraged to stay high
Statistically, the Impact outstripped Vancouver last weekend from an attacking standpoint, despite a 2-0 defeat at BC Place.
Montreal had more shots, shots on target and open-play crosses than their opponents, yet their forward pairing of Justin Braun and Sanna Nyassi struggled to truly threaten ‘Caps goalkeeper Joe Cannon on a consistent basis.
After often dropping back into the midfield to help connect play against Vancouver, Marsch is hoping Braun will be in position to get on the end of more of those crosses against Chicago.
“We felt that last week, maybe [Justin] wasn’t in the box enough,” he said. “We’ve discussed that. I think that he’s going to try to get on the end of balls a little bit more on the end of plays.”