MONTREAL – So Real Salt Lake play keep-ball, and the Impact are deadly on the counter. What happens during Saturday’s game between the two sides (2 pm ET; WATCH FREE on MLS Live) is easy to figure out, right?
Not so fast.
Montreal insist they want the ball just as badly RSL do, especially since they’re returning to their Stade Saputo home. They’re fully aware that it will hardly discourage Salt Lake from trying to maintain possession, but they’re adamant that they’ll give it a shot – and that where and how the game plays out is not a foregone conclusion.
“They play technical soccer, they move and look for solutions to score, rather than play direct,” Patrice Bernier explained. “I haven’t seen this team cross much. We try to play like that ourselves, but our advantage is that we’re quite dominant on the counter. We know we can rely on both approaches.”
Midfielder Collen Warner, who spent two seasons in Utah and has deputized for Bernier at times during the packed schedule of the past three weeks, agreed: “We try to stay on the ball, so it should be a good game with some good soccer.”
Fittingly, head coach Marco Schällibaum repeated on Friday the good words he had for his team’s tactical work after his team lost 2-1 in New York on Wednesday, going so far as to suggest the midweek effort was even better than the perfect early-season away trip in Cascadia. One thing Montreal did then but failed to do at Red Bull Arena, though, is get the opponent on the ropes early.
Achieving this on Saturday could alter the tactical battle significantly and let Montreal play to what the first months of 2013 have suggested their strengths are.
“If they want to attack, we’ve seen their strengths, but we also saw the spaces they leave open which we can attack,” Bernier explained. “With the players we've got up front, we’ve got to capitalize on that time they lose the ball, score early and control the play.”