Preview: Montréal Impact (n)
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
When? Saturday July 25, 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET and 1 a.m. (26) GMT.
Where? ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, FL.
How can I catch the action? ESPN2 and TUDN for residents of the United States and TSN for Canadian residents. Free Sports (Freeview channel 64, and on the app) for us U.K. folk. The game is also available online via Twitter, the TUDN app in the US, as well as the TSN app for Canada. You can also listen locally on 96.9 The game and 810AM ACCION (ESP).
Orlando City's reward for topping group A of the MLS Is Back tournament is a tie with Thierry Henry's Montréal Impact. The Impact scraped through group C as one of the best 3rd place finishers, having totalled 1 win and two defeats during their group campaign. Having suffered reversals at the hands of New England Revolution (0-1) and Toronto FC (3-4), Montréal defeated D.C. United 1-0 in a turgid affair to book their place in the round of 16.
You get the feeling that Thierry Henry has yet to work out his best formation and line-up, as he has tinkered with the squad a fair bit since the beginning of the tournament. The Impact have used three different formations and 17 different starting players. During their opening loss to New England the team used a 5-4-1 formation, before reverting to a 3-5-2 in the defeat to Toronto. They then used a 4-3-2-1 formation which essentially became a 4-3-3 when on the attack. As such it becomes difficult to predict, at least with any degree of certainty, how this Impact team is going to approach the game against Orlando City.
That being said, the Impact were much improved (though far from impressive) during their win over a poor D.C. United side. You have to fancy that Henry will need to settle on a formation sooner rather than later, and this game may just be the perfect opportunity to do that. You may think i'm being overly critical of Montréal, but truthfully, they laboured to this victory. D.C. had more shots, a higher pass completion rate and greater possession of the ball. They also dispossessed their opponents on more occasions (see figure 1, Impact - United). This Montréal side doesn't really have an identity as yet, this is something that Arsenal legend Henry will have to address quickly. Henry's side did attempt more dribbles, which speaks to them perhaps wanting to become a little more direct. The likes of Bojan will need to see the ball in more dangerous areas if Montréal are to have any hopes of progressing further in this tournament.
Figure 1 D.C. took more shots, had more possession, had a higher pass completion rate, and completed more recoveries than the Impact.
Whilst the likes of Bojan, Urruti and Quioto are all talented players, they don't necessarily see a whole lot of the ball in dangerous areas. The trio only completed 118 touches throughout the game (figure 2). Many of these touches also came in areas in their middle and defensive thirds. By comparison Orlando city's attacking quartet of Akindele, Mueller, Nani and Pereyra had 178 touches throughout the game (figure 3). Full disclosure, I know 4 players are more likely to have more touches than 3, but this is the way we line-up. You'll also notice that there is a stark contrast in the amount of offensive areas our forwards get into.
Figure 2 This heatmap shows that, whilst Bojan et al like to get into advanced areas, they don't necessarily see a whole lot of the ball.
Figure 3 Orlando's offensive line was able to get into more forward positions against Philadelphia, than Montréal's were against D.C.
In terms of preparedness and fitness for this game Montréal are still without Steevan Saba (left foot, long term) and Ballou Tabla. Orlando City, however, have a clean bill of health from which to choose. There were some notably tired legs towards the end of the draw with the Union, so I wouldn't be too surprised to see one or two changes.
Possible starting XI for Montréal Impact
Now, guys, I won't lie to you. This is probably going to be wrong. It's difficult to predict how this team is going to line-up. That being said, they got the win in their last game with this line-up and formation. There is every chance that this could be the way Montréal lines up. Just don't hold your breath.
Mauricio Pereyra's battle with the former Tottenham defensive midfielder could be the key to victory in this game. The experienced Kenya international has amassed well over 200 career appearances for the likes of Celtic, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur. Probably the only player in the squad that you can bet on starting this game.
As we've previously alluded to, Montréal can probably count themselves somewhat fortunate to have made it this far in the tournament. The Canadian side are 1-0-2. They are 2-1-2 on the season overall, so it's been a real mixed bag. In 12 competitive meetings between the club OC have won 4, lost 6 and drawn 2. The most memorable competitive encounter coming in Montréal last season. Orlando running out 3-0 winners.