Sounders head north of the border — brace for Impact of no Dempsey

Back to the land of French Canadians — again. It almost seems like this trip happened only a few months ago, though it was a full two seasons since the Seattle Sounders FC faced the Montreal Impact on their home field.

In case you forgot that drubbing — 4-1 was the final — it was just weeks after then keeper Michael Gspurning went down with his hip injury and the team as a whole was in utter dismay. Even looking back to last season’s home defeat at the hands of the Impact, one wonders what the Rave Green’s struggles are with this club only in it’s third Major League Soccer season.

The opponent

In some cases, you could argue that this trip will be easier for the Sounders — Montreal is already on its third head coach in as many seasons, has lost both of its first two matches of this season and most importantly are without one of the best finishers in all of the MLS in Marco Di Vaio who is serving the third and final match of a three-game ban which he received at the end of last season after several acts of “violent conduct” — more on this later — in their playoff loss to Houston.

With Di Vaio out, expect the attack to come from third-year striker Andrew Wenger, who scored a strong header two weeks ago at home, along with wingers Sanna Nyassi and Justin Mapp — who has been outstanding off the dribble and attacking the left flak this season. Although this doesn’t fall under the category of “most potent attack” it is still one that can score goals, as indicated by their 3-2 season opening loss.

They are a team though that has yet to really even put the keys into the car, let alone take a drive this season. The type of team that a full-strength Seattle should expect to get their first three points of the season against.

But a red flag should have popped up the second you read “full-strength Seattle” — and like most of last season, this squad will be missing one key player and possible more.

Who’s missing

Firstly and most importantly, the Rave Green will be without designated player and USMNT captain Clint Dempsey, who this week was handed a two-match ban for “violent conduct” from MLS after he “hit the mid-section” of a Toronto player in last week’s 2-1 home loss. Deuce appealed, and was denied, which means that he’ll miss today’s match along with next week’s home tilt against the Columbus Crew. It was a bone-headed play by Dempsey, but being the most fouled player per 90 minutes this season, I’d probably begin to get mad too — hopefully these two weeks will get him some rest and get his head straight — because he’s playing really well since returning from Europe.

The Sounders are also battling the injury bug early in the campaign, as team Defender of the Year from last season, Leo Gonzalez, has yet to play in an MLS match, and both center back Chad Marshall and midfielder Brad Evans picked up knocks in last week’s match. It appears that both Evans and Marshall could play, which is good sign for consistency — but I’d be surprised to see Gonzalez rushed back on a very poor playing surface.

Tactics

Offensivly for the Sounders, the creative playmaker responsibilities will likely fall onto the shoulders of newly acquired Marco Pappa, who so far this season has probably been the Sounders worst player. He has skills — he showed that in preseason — but his full form is yet to return. If the squad is to take three points north of the border, he’ll need to play as a true No. 10 and be the creative force throughout the park. Even with the loss of Dempsey, I don’t see much in the way of tactical changes for the team, as I think they’ll revert to the 4-2-3-1 double-piviot formation, slotting Kenny Cooper in as the right wing and Lamar Neagle as the left. This is still a strong starting XI for the Sounders, but obviously not ideal.

Projected formation

As mentioned above — I expect to see a double-piviot 4-2-3-1 with everyone healthy, so in my mind Seattle should have a fully healthy squad to pick from.

Frei

Yedlin                    Remick
Traore    Marshall

Evans    Alonso
Cooper    Pappa    Neagle

Martins

Where to watch

I’m guessing that not many people are going to that place where everything is written in French — beautiful city though — so the best bet is to watch it on the tube. If you can break away from March Madness tomorrow, the game will be broadcast at 1 p.m. PST on Joe TV in the Seattle area. You can also watch it with an MLS Matchday Live subscription or via other methods I’m sure some crazy kids know about.

We now are lucky enough to have a Sounders writing staff of three, which means each week you’ll see previews, recaps, more in-depth thoughts, news and more — so be sure to stay tuned to see what our full-strength side can do for you here at NASORB.com