Back in action on Saturday evening, the Portland Timbers play host to Montreal Impact at JELD-WEN Field (7:30pm PT, KPTV / estrellaTV, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940), find out everything you need to know about the visiting team.
A brief history…
Now into their second year in MLS, the third Canadian franchise kept the name of the second division team from Quebec, who had been in existence since 1992 and playing in the North American Soccer League.
Owner Joey Saputo pumped a lot of money into the club and helped to fund a soccer-specific stadium, which opened last season, and the club have embodied the Quebecois culture with almost everything they do happening both in English and French.
How did they fare last season?
Finishing in 12th place overall was not considered good enough, even though it was the team’s debut season in MLS. The inconsistency that they failed to shake continually haunted them, while their defense let in 51 goals in 34 regular season games.
There were some bright sparks, such as the emergence of rookie Andrew Wenger, the class of Feilpe, and the work ethic of Patrice Bernier. Yet, all of the pieces didn’t quite fit and the fact that their top scorer was a defensive midfielder with nine goals said a lot.
Who have they brought in for this season?
Well, the big change came in the head coach’s position where Marco Schallibaum replaced Jesse Marsch. It was a surprise move by the organization, but one which broadcast their desire to make it to the playoffs and adopt a new style of play.
On the field, the two big arrivals were Andrea Pisanu and Andres Romero – both attacking players signed on loan agreements for the season. They should fill the voids left by Lamar Neagle, Eduardo Sebrango and Bernardo Corradi, who all moved on.
How did their season opener go?
A lot better than most people expected as they claimed a 1-0 victory over Seattle Sounders in CenturyLink Field. They may have spent a lot of the game on the backfoot, but there was clearly a new counter-attacking style being enforced by Schallibaum.
The stats will suggest that they were lucky to get the three points as they were second best in most areas, although their game-plan worked a treat. It was all about absorbing pressure and using their speed to break forward – a risky but sometimes very rewarding tactic.
READ: MLS Matchcenter Stats: SEA v MTL
READ: MLS Matchcenter Chalkboard: SEA v MTL
Head coach: Marco Schallibaum
A surprise appointment as the Impact’s new head coach, the 50-year-old enjoyed a long playing career in his native Switzerland and represented their national team 31 times. Since moving into coaching, he has been in charge of nine different teams before arriving in Canada and also worked for FIFA as a coaching instructor. He has a strong knowledge of Italian and German football.
Star Player: Felipe
Still only 22, this Brazilian playmaker possesses maturity beyond his years that allows him to regularly out-fox his opponents. Constantly moving, he drifts into dangerous areas and drags players out of position to open up gaps for his teammates, where he has the ability to tread through accurate passes. If he is not watched closely, then he can cause havoc.
One To Watch: Sanna Nyassi
A Gambian international who is bound to get a loud response from the Timbers Army due to his time with the Seattle Sounders, this winger is a real threat. By using his natural pace and timing his runs, Nyassi gets in behind defenders often before they have a chance to react. He is a key part of Montreal’s counter-attacking system.
What can the Timbers expect?
Lots of deep defending and break-neck counter attacks. If Montreal set up just like they did against Seattle, then their defensive line will remain close to the edge of its own penalty area and their midfielders will hope to pick up loose balls and set their attackers away quite quickly.
The speed of Sanna Nyassi is a weapon that they will aim to use, while the crossing ability of Justin Mapp (if he starts) is also an option for them to feed main striker Marco Di Vaio. Although, the driving runs of Davy Arnaud need to be picked up on.
Where are they most vulnerable?
In defensive midfield as they tend to allow the opposition to keep the ball and invite pressure onto themselves. It is an old-style Italian tactic to lure a team in and then hit back hard on the counter attack, but it only works if they can keep a clean sheet.
Against Seattle, they allowed 15 shots on their goal and were incredibly fortunate not to concede. This is a team that Timbers playmaker Diego Valeri should love to play against as he is bound to get space to work his magic and fire off a few shots on goal.
Who are their main threats?
Di Vaio, a former Italy international, is still a deadly frontman even though he is now 36. If Montreal can get the right service into him, then he will surely keep Timbers shotstopper Donovan Ricketts busy throughout.
Arnaud, who is a close friend of Jack Jewsbury, is a midfielder with a lot of class and an eye for goal. Feilpe is the creative force to shut down, while striker Andrea Pisanu, on loan from Bologna in Italy, needs to be marked closely around the penalty area.
Previous Meetings in MLS
2012: April 28 – Montreal 2-0 Portland Timbers
Record vs Montreal Impact: 0-0-1