The Columbus Crew appears to have the momentum on the field — and in the rivalry — heading into Saturday’s Week 2 match against visiting Montreal Impact.
Montreal (0-1), which has not beaten the Crew since April 2016, will face a confident Columbus side fresh off a head-turning 2-0 win against MLS Cup champion Toronto FC. The Impact dropped its opener 2-1 to Vancouver Whitecaps, in the debut of Montreal coach Remi Garde. While much of the focus has been on the Crew’s interest in possibly relocating to Austin, Texas, the team shifted that focus to the pitch with its play in Week 1.
Crew Captain Wil Trapp says the players’ focus is “100 percent” on winning its home opener, not on the outside noise.
“We know that the fans support us,” Trapp said. “We appreciate that support of course. For us the best way we can affect their support even more is to win the game. We feel like we have a good game plan, we feel confident.”
In the win over TFC, Argentine veteran Federico Higuain scored his 49th career goal just before halftime, and Gyasi Zardes upped the margin a minute into the second half. Zardes managed just two goals last season with the Los Angeles Galaxy, but this strike recalled his 16-goal form in 2014.
The Crew went 2-0 against the Impact last season by a combined 7-3. In the teams’ previous meeting, Columbus walloped visiting Montreal 4-1. Columbus is on a seven-game unbeaten run at home (6-0-1).
The Impact upgraded its injury-depleted back line this week with the signing of veteran French center back Rod Fanni, 36, who had two stints with Olympique Marseille and replaces injured Zakaria Diallo (torn Achilles tendon).
“Rod will strengthen our defensive corps while bringing his extensive experience to the group,” Garde said in a statement.
Montreal’s season started with a bit of a thud. Only an 82nd-minute goal by Italian Matteo Mancosu averted a shutout. Center back Jukka Raitala of Finland gave a strong effort.
—Field Level Media