Impact spirits up after first road win, Dzemaili arrival, for meeting with Crew

Impact spirits up after first road win, Dzemaili arrival, for meeting with Crew

New Montreal Impact player, Swiss international midfielder Blerim Dzemaili, talks with reporters upon arriving at the Montreal Trudeau Airport Tuesday, May 9, 2017 in Montreal. With the arrival of designated player Dzemaili and a first away win in their pocket, the Montreal Impact should have plenty of positive energy going into their game against the visiting Columbus Crew on Saturday evening.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson.

MONTREAL — With the arrival of designated player Blerim Dzemaili and a first away win in their pocket, the Montreal Impact should have plenty of positive energy going into their game against the visiting Columbus Crew on Saturday evening.

Coach Mauro Biello can use Dzemaili as a starter or off the bench if, as expected, he opts to give the Swiss international midfielder his first taste of Major League Soccer action only four days after landing in Montreal from Italian club Bologna FC.

“It doesn’t matter if he’s a DP, if he’s ready and willing to help us win games that’s all that matters,” forward Dominic Oduro said this week. “We’ve seen his abilities.

“He’s a great player. He’s going to push us forward now.”

An extra dose of skill and experience may be just what the 10th-place Impact (2-3-4) need as they attempt to climb into playoff position after a weak start to the season.

They are coming off their first away win and first clean sheet with their 1-0 victory at D.C. United last Saturday on a goal by impressive 18-year-old homegrown talent Ballou Tabla. Six of their first nine games were on the road, but now they have two at home against Columbus and Portland.

They are up against a Columbus side that lost 2-1 at home on Wednesday night to Toronto FC, conceding a pair of goals in the final nine minutes to Canadian substitute Tosaint Ricketts. They will be playing a third game in eight days. The sixth-place Crew (5-5-1) started the season 3-1-1 but are 2-4-0 since then.

The Crew went 1-2-0 on a just-completed three-game home stand and now have three straight on the road, where they are 1-3-0.

“Columbus is the kind of team where you have to be careful,” said Oduro. “They’re good at dissecting teams.

“They find ways to penetrate behind defences. We have to stay compact. We respect them. Unlike other teams that play long balls, they like to keep the ball, so we have to be really smart with them.”

Columbus has been getting production from its three big guns. Ola Kamara has six goals in 11 games while Federico Higuain and Justin Meram have four each. They will also have coach Gregg Berhalter back at the bench after a one-game suspension for kicking a ball onto the field in anger against New England last week.

Biello has decisions to make. After a 2-1 loss at home to Vancouver two weeks ago, there were lineup changes in D.C., with Oduro moving into the striker’s spot in place of injured Matteo Mancosu, Daniel Lovitz taking over for Oduro on the right wing and Adrian Arregui getting a start in place of Marco Donadel as a defensive midfielder. The coach may want to give them another shot.

Sophomore Kyle Fisher had a solid game in the central defence with veteran Laurent Ciman and will likely play again.

Ballou played the attacking centre midfield spot with success, although that is likely where they want Dzemaili to play.

“We have to use the fact that they played Wednesday to our advantage,” said Oduro. “Maybe there’s a little fatigue in them.

“Hopefully we can use that, but also the fact that we’re playing at home should be a boost for us with the crowd coming out. And Dzemaili coming in will be a boost for us.”

Dzemaili arrived Tuesday and was officially given his No. 31 Impact shirt at a news conference on Thursday. He said he is ready to play whenever the coaches decide. One task he may be given is taking free kicks.

“It was a positive impression, having a conversation with him and how open minded he was, telling us what he’s used to but at the same time making it clear he will play any position and any role the staff gives him,” said assistant coach Jason Di Tullio. “Every time there’s a change or the addition of a player, the players feed off that.

“We expect that on Saturday if he plays or is just in the lineup.”

Note: The Impact loaned rookie forward Nick DePuy to the Ottawa Fury of the NASL. He is to play Saturday against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and then return to Montreal.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press


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