I must admit there are certain games I look forward to a little more than others. Case in point, for obvious reasons, the Impactâs first ever MLS match in Vancouver, the home opener at Stade Olympic, first Toronto FC visit and of course the David Beckham concertâ¦I mean match. The game on Saturday against League leaders San Jose is intriguing for different reasons. With the Impact playing for their playoff lives, every game is a must win, and Saturdayâs opposition is as tough as they come. With this being their only meeting of the season , itâs a blessing for the Impact to be hosting as opposed to visiting. Montreal faced many big tests on home turf this season and aside from an embarrassing 3-0 loss at the hands of Canadian rivals Toronto FC, and a lackluster 3-1 defeat to Sporting Kansas City, the Impact have passed all other home tests with flying colors. Now riding a three-game win streak and a four-game home wins streak, I can hear the voices of the players echoing in the Impact locker room: âBring on the Earthquakesâ.
KEYS TO VICTORY
OFFENSE: Having conceded 29 goals in 24 matches, San Jose are not exactly stingy in that department. The Impact must continue on the front foot at Stade Saputo as theyâve done all year in order to control the match offensively. San Jose Goal keeper Jon Busch is indeed talented but not the tallest keeper around and can be beaten if tested with any regularity. This is a game the Impact must set an objective to out shoot the opposition, and do so from all angles, not just with clear visibility at the San Jose goal.
OFFENSE: Never imagined I would ever say this but I hope when I see the official starting line up sheet it will readÂ Andrew Wenger and notÂ Marco Di Vaio as lone striker. At some point, and I believe that point is now, you cannot deny the young man the opportunities heâs earned out-right. Scoring 4 goals -of which 2 were match winners-Â from a mere 10 shots in only 500 minutes is impressive. Di Vaio has just 1 goal from 25 shots in 667 minutes of action. Wenger has delivered the goods when called on, Di Vaio has not, time for a change. At the very least a benching will give a swift kick in the rear of Di Vaio, who will understand clearly heâs under-achieving to the point where change is needed. At this stage itâs not about who you are, itâs about what youâre bringing to the table, Wengerâs bringing the meat and potatoes, Di Vaioâs coming empty-handed.
OFFENSE: Donât look now but all of a suddenÂ Sanna Nyassi has 5 goals on the year and is second in team scoring. The speedy attacker has 3 goals in his last 5 matches, and is full of confidence. The fear though is that Nyassi may feel he warrants a starting spot against San Jose and his argument would not be without merit. Except his case is much different from that of Andrew Wenger in that Nyassi is a game changer, someone whoâs most effective off the bench. Nyassi should be introduced into the match at a point when the opposing defenders are hindered by mental and physical fatigue, but given enough time to do damage. Iâve said it before and Iâll say it again, Sanna Nyassi is the Impactâs X-factor player.
KEYS TO VICTORY
DEFENSE: Every Impact supporter, player and staff are prayingÂ Alessandro Nesta can shake off the injury to his knee and get back into the line up. His absence at the heart of the defense is noticeable and his partnership with Nelson Rivas came to a sudden halt after Rivas lost his cool, head butting an opponent which drew a 3 match ban. True,Â Hassoun Camara is solid as a rock and no questionÂ Matteo Ferrari is as reliable as they come, but Nesta brings a presence to the team which no other current player can. Nestaâs control of the entire back line is essential against a top side such as San Jose.
DEFENSE: Alan Gordon is San Joseâs second leading scorer with an impressive 9 goals in only 820 minutes. No need to worry about him though, Gordon is suspended for the match. But there is legitimate concern about the Earthquakeâs leading scorer Chris Wondolowski. The US International has 17 goals in 22 matches and if given just the slightest chance, will certainly show you how to put the ball in the back of the Impactâs net. Wondolowski is not the most athletic player, not the fastest, and not the most technical player you will ever see, but he stands above the rest in shooting accuracy. Wondolowski is that lethal player who hits the target with 50% of the shots he attempts, which 50% of shots on target actually scoring. The Impact should have one defensive mission, deny Wondolowski the opportunities to shoot, while keeping close tabs on Steven Lenhart -San Joseâs third leading scorer with 8 goals. This is the job of the entire back four of the Impact, with extra help coming from Patrice Bernier and Collen Warner.
DEFENSE:Â Goal KeeperÂ Troy Perkins will need to have a strong game in net. Perkins knows all too well the dangers of the Earthquake attack, having been in the same conference until the recent trade which brought him to Montreal. I respectfully do not share the same feeling as Coach Jesse Marsch who thought Perkins had a strong game last week against New England. He certainly didnât cost the team, as the group left New England with a shut out. However, I observed a nervous and hesitant Keeper who will need to shed the nerves and amp up the swagger against a strong San Jose side. He has it in him.