The New York Red Bulls will make their first trip of the 2012 season to Montreal this weekend, as they look to extend their impressive and unexpected four game unbeaten streak against the Impact. They will do so without Thierry Henry, who is healthy enough to play but will sit out because the match will be played on turf, and Juan Agudelo who was traded to Chivas USA on Thursday for defender Heath Pearce. Needless to say, it's unlikely that four goals will come from the New York forward(s) again like when New York beat Montreal 5-2 back in March at Red Bull Arena.
After posting three consecutive shutouts and rallying to beat the Philadelphia Union 3-2 last weekend, New York has winnable matches against Montreal on Saturday and then Chivas USA at Red Bull Arena next Wednesday before entering an almost three week break in their MLS schedule with only a U.S. Open Cup match on May 29th to play. But before the team gets too excited about entering June on top of the Eastern Conference riding a six-game winning streak, they will have to grind out a win against a Montreal Impact team that will look little like the side that gave up five goals against New York just six weeks ago.
After a slow start to the season for MLS' newest team, the Montreal Impact have quickly pulled together an unbeaten streak of four matches that includes a win over Sporting Kansas City and draws against DC United and the LA Galaxy. Montreal also fit in two Canadian Championship matches (think U.S. Open Cup but much, much smaller) against Toronto FC. The match against the Red Bulls will be the Impact's seventh in the last month.
The key to Montreal's success the past few weeks has been its play in the center of the field. Their centerback tandem of Matteo Ferrari and Nelson Rivas plays a physical style that could very easily frustrate Kenny Cooper if he doesn't have the support he needs coming up from the midfield. But New York's midfield will be busy keeping tabs on central midfielders Davy Arnaud and the young Brazilian Felipe Martins who had an assist the last time these teams met.
Up top, Montreal boasts an eclectic group of forwards, most notably Bernardo Corradi who leads the team with three goals. What Corradi lacks in pace, he makes up for in his ability to hold up play and distribute, as well as his movement away from the ball which can create space for some of Montreal's quicker players to try and exploit. Speaking of which, the Red Bulls are all too familiar with speedster Sanna Nyassi, who has four goals in his last two matches against New York, and the fellow Red Bull fan headache-inducing Justin Braun. For better or worse, Montreal has been using both players largely in substitute roles.
Rookie Andrew Wenger has shown flashes of why Montreal made him the first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, but has yet to crack the starting lineup. Former Red Bull Sinisa Ubiparipovic has played sparingly for Montreal, but typically makes the 18-man gameday roster and his versatility allows Montreal Manager Jesse Marsch to plug him in practically anywhere in the midfield if needed.
Aside from competing on the field, it looks like Montreal may be moving in on rumored Red Bulls target Alessandro Nesta, although New York's interest may be waning as newcomer Heath Pearce is a more affordable and long-term solution to shoring up the Red Bulls defense.
Excited for the Montreal re-match? Can New York make it five games unbeaten in a row? Share your thoughts below and be sure to check back for a game thread and any late breaking team news.