Last weekend against the Seattle Sounders, the Montreal Impact used the middle of the field more purposefully and intelligently than they had done in a long time.
Packing the middle didn't seem to work in the latter weeks of the 2012 season, but the 2013 version of the tactic worked wonders on Saturday. And while Impact assistant coach Mauro Biello has conceded that tweaks are always a possibility, the club's approach should be quite similar as they make their first appearance at Jeld-Wen Field this Saturday night to face the Portland Timbers (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
MLS Match Preview: Portland Timbers vs. Montreal Impact
“We’ll be trying to move forward with a system that’s been working well for us, but that doesn’t mean we won’t change anything in the following games,” Biello told MLSsoccer.com via phone from Portland, Ore., earlier this week. “It also depends on how the opponent plays. We have to adapt and see what can benefit us during a given game.”
Montreal’s plan worked à la perfection against Seattle en route to a 1-0 victory. After the game, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid lamented that his club "didn't get wide enough” against a Montreal side that compacted the middle well.
Biello, meanwhile, saw first-hand what Portland are capable of in his first visit to Jeld-Wen Field last Sunday. The Timbers got the ball wide and exploited the attacking third more wisely against the New York Red Bulls in their 3-3 tie than the Sounders did against the Impact the day before.
“You could feel on Sunday that [Portland] were going to at least equalize. Their movement is great on the flanks and we’ll have to watch that closely,” Biello said. “They’ve changed with a new coach and a new philosophy.”
Montreal may have to overcome that particular challenge without Justin Mapp, who is listed as questionable for this weekend. Mapp came was replaced at halftime of last weekend's game due to a calf knock and he could be replaced by Sanna Nyassi, who filled in for Mapp against the Sounders. Andrés Romero and Calum Mallace – who played on the right for 21 minutes in Seattle – are other wide options for the Impact.