After a disappointing loss in Columbus last weekend, the Fire come back to Toyota Park to face the Montreal Impact in the second to last home game of the season (LIVE 7pm CT on My50/Time Warner Sports 32). Montreal have dropped their last three of their fo MLS matches and are stalling at the wrong time. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective.
Replacing Bakary Soumare at center back – a new partnership in the middle?
Since the return of Bakary Soumare to the Fire at mid-season, the Malian and Austin Berry have essentially played every match together in the middle. Though Baky has made a number of individual errors this season, his suspension comes at a bad time.
This opening provides a conundrum for coach Frank Klopas.
We could see the return of Hunter Jumper in the middle after his goal scoring exploits against SKC last month. Jalil Anibaba could also slot over to his natural position of center back with one of Wells Thompson, Mike Videira or Logan Pause filling in at right back.
In last weekend’s loss to the Crew, Jeff Larentowicz moved back into central defense after the Soumare red card. Starting Larentowicz in this position seems the most likely option but it would mean breaking up the midfield tandem of the former Revs player and Arevalo Rios, which has made the Men in Red an extremely difficult team to break down.
Whoever replaces Soumare will be tasked with stifling a Montreal team that has scored the third highest amount of goals in MLS this season.
Matching up against Marco Di Vaio – attempting to slow down MLS’s top goal scorer
There isn’t much to say about Marco Di Vaio that hasn’t been covered already. At 36 and in his first season in the league, he has made it look easy, scoring 18 goals to date.
An even scarier stat is that none of his goals have come from the penalty spot with Canadian Patrice Bernier continuing as the Impact’s regular PK taker.
Similar to Robbie Keane, Di Vaio’s finishing is a step above most MLS strikers. He also puts himself in excellent positions, with many of his goals coming from tap-ins. His header from two yards out against Columbus was a prime example of this.
Fortunately for the Fire, one of Di Vaio’s favorite set up men, Felipe, will be missing due to suspension. The absence of the Brazilian is a blow for the Impact but with Patrice Bernier and Justin Mapp having excellent seasons, Di Vaio will have ample opportunities Saturday night.
In a tactical preview for the Fire’s game against Montreal back in April I talked about cutting the supply line to the Italian but he still managed to bag the second goal in the Impact’s 2-0 win.
With the plethora of creative midfielders on the field for Montreal, the Fire players must not neglect Di Vaio because one lapse in concentration can be fatal.
Isolating the Impact’s aging Italian defenders – getting in 1v1 situations with Ferrari and Nesta
For allof Montreal’s attacking prowess, the Impact have given up the most goals of any team currently holding playoff positions. Both Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari are excellent and experienced defenders, often making up for a lack of pace with brilliant positioning.
Both players have shown to be uncomfortable however when they are in 1v1 situations against a player with a lot of pace. This does not happen often but if the opportunity arises, most likely from a counter attack, the Fire must capitalize.
The movement from the Fire’s attacking players has dragged center backs out of position on numerous occasions this season and I look for Mike Magee and Co. to do the same on Saturday night, especially against players who have lost more than a step of pace.
Prediction: 1-0 Fire with a goal from Magic Mike Magee