LAFC vs Montreal Impact: Preview
After a frustrating draw in Dallas last weekend, LAFC return to Banc of California Stadium to host the Montreal Impact on Friday May 24th with kickoff scheduled for 7pm. The Black & Gold are undefeated at home this season and will look to extend their current 6-game unbeaten streak to remain in 1st place of the Western Conference. With 32 goals scored and only 9 conceded, LAFC are the highest-ranked offense and defense in the league with major contributions from club captain Carlos Vela, who has 14 goals in 14 games. Montreal has scored half as many goals and allowed double the amount that LAFC has but the benevolent Eastern Conference has them in playoff contention. The Impact have performed well on the road this year with 4 out of their 6 wins coming away from home and will look to brush off their current 2-game winless skid by playing a disciplined and organized game in Los Angeles. With a more conservative game plan complimented by counter-attack football, Montreal will look to use LAFC’s frustration and lack of finishing as of late against them. However, if the accuracy is there on the night for the Black & Gold, the goals will come in bunches.
No Goals, No Problem
There is a situation in Montreal where two crucial players are involved: one is returning to action from injury but the other will be forced to miss the game due to suspension. Argentine midfielder Ignacio Piatti made an appearance last week for the first time in 9 weeks due to a calf injury and his presence on the pitch was felt immediately. The Impact might have their talented DP in the starting lineup for the first time in 10 games as LAFC need to mindful of his capability to create and score goals. Whether he gets the start or comes off the bench, having a player like Piatti will improve the Impact’s chances of obtaining a positive result. On the negative side for Montreal, Canadian Samuel Piette will not be available for selection as he will serve a one-game suspension due to yellow card accumulation. The 24-year old defensive midfielder is a rock in his position and his absence in the center of the field is something LAFC will be looking to capitalize on.
When I think about Friday’s match and how Montreal will approach it, the term “park the bus” comes to mind. Although not the most spectacular of strategies, it has worked for teams in the past against LAFC. As a result of this game plan, goalkeeper Evan Bush has 6 clean sheets on the year, Montreal has three 0-0 draws during the season but have also been kept scoreless on five different occasions. In addition to all this, the Impact have failed to score a goal in the first half of play in any game since Week 3. That is where LAFC come into play.
Score Early & Finish
The Black & Gold also have a situation of their own where two crucial players are involved: one has already been ruled out due to injury and the other is questionable for the same reason. Steven Beitashour suffered a hamstring injury last week in Dallas and will not be available for Friday’s match. Bob Bradley has inserted Shaft Brewer Jr., Tristan Blackmon and Latif Blessing into the right back position when Beita has been absent in the past, so it will be interesting to see what he does for this match considering that Blessing is much more efficient and productive higher up the pitch. The availability of Eduard Atuesta is the contingent as to what position Blessing will play as the Colombian recovers from a knee injury he suffered one week ago vs Dallas at the Banc. If Atuesta sits, Bob would have to make some changes in his lineup with two of his most important players out.
At the end of the day, it will be 11-vs-11 and each LAFC player is capable of contributing in their own way. The keys to winning this game are the following: score early, outside backs projecting forward and finishing clear chances. It has been proven that when the Black & Gold score early (15th minute or sooner), they go on to win the game without much complications. That’s because it releases tension from the players and they play much more relaxed without having to worry about getting on the scoreboard later in the match. Earlier I mentioned that Montreal has yet to score a first-half goal in over 10 games so if LAFC can get an early goal, good things will come out of it. The Impact will more than likely play with five defenders so the outside backs in Jordan Harvey and potentially Latif Blessing will play major roles to break down the weak point of the Montreal defense. Last but certainly not least, the finishing in the final third has been frustrating to say the least. Diego Rossi, Adama Diomande and Christian Ramirez have been struggling as of late when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net but with a little luck and accuracy, I look for at least one of them to bounce back and have a big game.
This will be the last home match for LAFC in quite some time as they go on a 3-game road trip that includes visits to Portland, Colorado and Sporting Kansas City. The next regular season game won’t be until July 6th when the Black & Gold host the Vancouver Whitecaps. Nothing less than three points on Friday will make Bob Bradley happy so if you get a chance, come out to Banc of California Stadium and support the Black & Gold as Carlos Vela leads his team to remain undefeated at home and in 1st place of the Western Conference.
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