With a lengthy injury list since the beginning of the season, it never seemed like the Columbus Crew would go into a game with less key players out than the opposition. However, that will be the case on Sunday when the Crew head to Montreal for the first time to play the Impact (7:30).
While most of Central Ohio was without power last Saturday, all of the Crew’s lights were on. A very impressive 2-0 victory over second-place Real Salt Lake was the result. First-half goals from Tony Tchani and Eddie Gaven lead a very controlled-looking Columbus team to three points, increasing their season total to 22 (6-5-4).
Montreal has been struggling in league play lately. They have given up three goals in each of their past three games, including a 3-0 loss at home to last-place Toronto. The Impact currently have 18 points (5-11-3).
Columbus and Montreal met once earlier this season. The Crew came away as 2-0 victors at home behind a penalty from Milovan Mirosevic and a header from Olman Vargas.
Crew defender Chad Marshall is expected to return to the starting lineup for the first time since April 28th after hopefully overcoming his concussion symptoms safely for the final time. He will most likely partner with Josh Williams, who has unexpectedly become a rock in the back this season.
In midfield, Danny O’Rourke should start in the defensive midfielder position. Many have filled in for him during his spells on the sidelines with an ankle injury this year, but, when healthy, no one is better than O’Rourke. In front of him, a newly recovered Mirosevic could play a full 90 minutes, but that would force Tony Tchani to the wing. Tchani has scored a goal in each of the past two games, and he impressed in the center of the park last weekend.
On the wings, Eddie Gaven and Chris Birchall seem to be head coach Robert Warzycha’s top choices. Justin Meram, after scoring three goals in three consecutive games earlier in the season, will probably continue to not get much playing time for whatever reason. Emilio Renteria and Aaron Schoenfeld will likely start together up top, while new addition Jairo Arrieta could come on as an attacking sub late in the game. With so many players healthy at the same time, Warzycha will have a plethora of lineup choices.
Montreal captain Davy Arnaud will miss the match due to yellow-card accumulation, as will fellow midfielder Felipe Martins. Arnaud and Martins lead the team in minutes played (excluding goalie Donovan Ricketts). Former Italian national team player Marco Di Vaio will lead the line for the Impact. Midfielders Justin Mapp and Patrice Bernier have both chipped in with multiple goals and assists this season. Recent high-profile signee, defender Alessandro Nesta from AC Milan, will not take the field yet for Montreal due to fitness.
Prediction: Crew 1-0 Impact
The Impact’s league-worst defense will concede a first-half goal to Columbus. The Crew’s league-leading defense will then bunker down, earning Andy Gruenebaum his seventh shutout of 2012 and picking up three valuable points on the road.