Goals could very well be at a premium in Montreal on Saturday when the Impact face New York City FC in a clash of defensively stingy teams of late.
The Impact (5-2-3) have recorded five clean sheets in their last six matches, taking 11 points in that stretch. They have recorded back-to-back shutouts and have not been scored upon in 214 minutes after Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Fire.
Omar Browne’s goal seven minutes from time – his first with the club – proved to be decisive as Montreal joined D.C. United and the Union atop the Eastern Conference on 17 points, though the Impact have the worst goal difference of the sides – mainly due to their 7-1 hiding administered by Sporting KC on March 30.
The defense has needed to step to the forefront as top playmaker Ignacio Piatti continues to be sidelined with a knee injury that has already caused him to miss seven matches. Montreal has gone 3-2-2 in his absence, getting a pair of 1-0 wins and scoreless draws.
“We are not so fragile anymore. Everyone gives to the team and it creates an atmosphere for work ethic that everyone is bringing into the team,” Impact coach Remi Garde told the Montreal Gazette. “I’m not surprised, but I’m very proud of that because to win games sometimes it’s about technique, sometimes it’s about tactics.
“But you cannot win a game if you are not mentally prepared to battle because it’s always a battle, especially in MLS.”
New York City FC (2-6-1) is unbeaten in five matches (2-3-0) and salvaged a point last Saturday with a 1-1 draw versus Orlando City. NYCFC had a 256-minute shutout streak end when Nani beat Sean Johnson in the 18th minute, but Heber continued his impressive adjustment to MLS play with an equalizer early in the second half for the Boys in Blue.
The Brazilian forward has factored in all of NYCFC’s last four goals, scoring three since entering Dome Torrent’s starting XI. On the defensive side, midfielder Alex Ring thinks the club has found a comfort zone after Torrent switched to a system with three centerbacks.
“I’ll play where Dome puts me to play but everyone knows my position is in front of the back three or back four,” Ring said. “I think we’re better positioned throughout the field and we have more width. The decision-making has been better in the last few matches.”
The teams played out a scoreless draw at Yankee Stadium on April 6, combining for just four shots on target as NYCFC had a 12-3 advantage in overall shots. Montreal is winless in its last seven matches versus New York City FC (0-4-3) and yet to record a home victory in four tries (0-1-3) since joining MLS in 2015.
(Evan Bush photo courtesy Impact de Montreal official Twitter account)