The Caps were roundly deflated after a run of halfway decent form Saturday against San Jose but must recover quickly ahead of a trans-continental jaunt to Montreal for a Wednesday tilt with an Impact team that also finds itself in a weird place.
The Impact brought this upon themselves to some extent by opting to can Rémi Garde and replace him with newly available Wilmer Cabrera in what we can only assume is a weird MLS manager version of Wife Swap. The change, which took place for reasons not immediately clear but we’re rumored to be related to Garde’s relationship with management, did them no immediate good, as they fell to arch rival Toronto FC on Heineken Rivalry Week-end (TM). Next up? Another Canadian derby. The match has grave importance for the Quebecois men though, as they find themselves in 8th place, out of the playoff picture by three points. This makes a match against the reeling Whitecaps a must-win.
When: Wednesday August 28 at 5:30 pm PT
Where: Stade Saputo, Montréal
How: TSN, TSN 1040, ESPN+
The Caps have a relatively clean bill of health heading into this one, although that didn’t help the, much against the Quakes. Michaell Chirinos even made his debut as a sub Saturday meaning he will be fully available in the midweek. The real question will be who MDS opts to rest given the travel time to Montreal, the full strength side he deployed in San Jose and the Caps’ return to BC Place on Saturday against NYCFC. If I had to guess, I would think we will see appearances from Zac MacMath, Scott Sutter, Brett Levis and maybe even the long lost Jon Erice to freshen up the squad. We may also see the first starts from Tosaint Ricketts and Chirinos to give the attack a fresh look after it sputtered against San Jose.
Montreal, on the other hand, are dealing with some honest to god injury woes. Ignacio Piatti is out until September with an abductor injury and two other starters, Victor Cabrera and Samuel Piette, are also set to miss time. Montreal also have a key weekend match with DC United at home and may use the lesser opponent that are the Caps to rotate ahead of a tie with a team they are rivaling for a playoff spot.
Who to watch
If they start, the men to watch will be new arrivals Bojan Krkic and Ballou Tabla, both joining the side in the waning days of the transfer window. Those familiar with the Impact will know Tabla is not exactly a new face, returning to Stade Saputo after an ill fated move to Barcelona’s B team. He was not especially impressive against Toronto FC but possess the kind of speed that has given the Caps’ defense fits this season. Bojan on the other hand got his Impact career off to a strong start with a goal against TFC Saturday. The creative midfielder comes to Montreal after struggling on loan with Mainz and Alaves following Stoke City’s 2018 relegation. Always dangerous are Bologna loanee Lassi Lappalainen, who has tallied four goals in five matches in Montreal, and Saphir Taider, who has cooled off after a red hot start to the season but remains the team’s most dangerous player.
The Caps, however, will need to exploit a defense that has declined significantly over the course of the season. The Impact sold arguably their best defender in Zak Diallo following a poor run of form and their next best option, Bacary Sagna, has also been struggling as of late. The Impact have conceded the third most goals per match in the league, meaning chances will be available for the Caps if they can hold onto the ball. They’re similarly third from the bottom in saves per match after a rough year from Evan Bush, underscoring the need to put shots on target.
Who is going to win?
The Caps have had a horrid time offensively in San Jose but this is a matchup that definitely could help them turn that tide, depending on who MDS opts to start, given the Impact’s shaky defensive form. I have a hard time believing both teams won’t be getting on the scoresheet, especially if Cabrera rolls with some of the new signings. History gives the Caps a good chance, as they are 5-1-3 all time against Montreal in all competitions. But past performance doesn’t predict future results. Montreal are set to be in a deep hole playoff-wise if they don’t get three points here and I expect their lineup to reflect that. Vancouver have had a habit of scoring goals early, only to lose them later on and I see that trend continuing Wednesday. I see the away side climbing back into the match, only to lose it again late in a 3-2 defeat that sees Ricketts notch his first goal in a Caps shirt.