It isn’t often that MLS games in April are forced to be rescheduled because of snow, but the weather in Montreal had other ideas. The Columbus Crew was forced to wait an extra day in Canada as large snow snowfall forced the game to be pushed back one day until Sunday. Ironically, given the weather conditions, the Crew’s second game in Canada so far this year was against one of the hottest teams in the league, the Montreal lmpact. The Canadian team had picked up an impressive 13 points from their opening 6 games, and look like one of the surprises of this season. Going on the road in Canada has proven to be tough for most MLS teams, and this would be no exception for Columbus. The Crew has actually started well on the road this season, and bringing home some points from the Stade Saputo would be huge for the Black and Yellow.
The Crew started this game with the same lineup that played against Philadelphia last week, and had started the last couple days. Jairo Arrieta has been consigned to a bench role since he went to play with Costa Rica last month with Ghanaian forward Dominic Oduro taking his place up front. Oduro has proven to be a solid acquisition for Columbus in the early part of the season, and even though the season is young, the Crew looks like they got the best out of the Dilly Duka – Dominic Oduro swap with the Chicago Fire. Playing behind Oduro, youngster Ben Speas has kept his starting spot in the midfield after showing he is more than capable of playing at this level. Not only is he a constant goal scoring threat, but his awareness and presence of mind far exceeds his budding age. He’s definitely someone to look out for in years to come.
The first half was dominated by missed chances from both sides, especially Columbus. An uncharacteristic 1 on 1 miss from Federico Higuain after great work from Eddie Gaven, and a Chad Marshall missed header was disappointing from a Crew perspective. It’s always crucial to take your chances on the road, and it would have been a huge boost to head into halftime with a deserved lead. The second half proved to be rather different. Montreal was very lackluster in the first half, but after the interval they started doing a great job of pressing Higuain in the middle of the pitch. The Argentinian is great at finding space, but the Montreal midfield trio of Bernier, Felipe and Arnaud stuck close to Pipa and denied him any space to work from. He wasn’t able to dominate the Crew play like we have grown used to and the creative burden fell at the feet of the midfield. The Crew was dangerous on the counter all afternoon and Danny O’Rourke/Agustin Viana was quick to release the ball to more forward players on the break. Montreal was caught high up the field pressing on a few occasions, but the Crew was unable to capitalize.
When Montreal came out in the second half with more zip and invention, the Crew found it hard to get back in its defensive rhythm. In the 63rd minute, Marco Di Vaio appeared to put the home team in the lead, but was flagged offside. The replay showed that the Italian was probably onside, level with the last Crew defender. It was a big break for Columbus, but the away side couldn’t take advantage. A few minutes later, the Impact put another one into the net, and this time the assistant referee wasn’t there to bail Columbus out. Marco Di Vaio got a hold of a loose ball outside the area and beat Andy Gruenebaum with a brilliant strike. The goal had been coming for 10 minutes and the Crew had no answers to the Montreal attack. At this point, the game was in danger of getting out of hand for Robert Warzycha’s men. Dominic Oduro: enter stage right. The former Chicago Fire striker has been under a lot of pressure to produce since relegating Jairo Arrieta to the bench, and he has stepped up to the challenge. In the 72nd minute, a ball fell to Oduro in the box and his opportunistic first time left footed volley was perfect. Montreal goalie Troy Perkins had no chance as the ball flew into the top right corner, and the Crew was back in the game. All 3 of Oduro’s goals this season have been of an extremely high quality, and it’s great to see him fitting in so well with his new team. He didn’t contribute a whole lot in the first half, but having someone who can create a goal out of nothing like that is vital. Montreal had a few more good chances to finish the game but poor finishing, in particular from substitute Nyassi, let them down. The game ended at 1 goal apiece, and a share of the points.
All in all, taking a point in Montreal is a massive result for Columbus. Montreal has been great this year, and bringing back a point to Ohio will show everybody in the league that the Crew is the real deal this year. The most impressive part of the Crew’s early season results has been the road form. Wins in DC and at Chivas, along with this point in Montreal, have propelled Columbus to one of the best road records in the league. The Crew plays their next game at Chicago on April 20th.
(image courtesy of thecrew.com)