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Columbus Crew are on a strange run. They’ve been unbeaten in their last 10 MLS games but it doesn’t feel like that because many of the performances haven’t been too convincing. On the other hand, CF Montreal have been up there with some of the best sides in the Eastern Conference as proved in their recent match against New York City FC.
The two sides have faced each other 25 times with CF Montreal winning 12 games, Columbus Crew winning nine and four ending in a draw. CF Montreal will head into this tie as the favorites.
It’s been a while since the two sides met, last facing each other in September last year. Columbus Crew came out on top in that encounter with Gyasi Zardes scoring a brace on the day. Romell Quito got a consolation goal in added time in what was a frustrating afternoon for CF Montreal.
They had more possession, 52 percent on the day, but couldn’t turn that advantage to anything meaningful. Columbus Crew were a bit wily on the day, committing 15 fouls to break up CF Montreal’s flow. CF Montreal took free kicks in the game but only got nine shots off all game. It always looked like too big of an ask to make a comeback after Zardes scored his second. Columbus Crew are still quite capable of frustrating the opposition, playing out a lot of draws all season.
Columbus Crew’s unbeaten streak might give one the impression that they’re on the rise but that’s far from the truth. They drew yet another game. The 0-0 draw against Charlotte FC was their ninth of the season. No team has managed more in the Eastern Conference.
Not only do they seem to be drawing games but they also happen to be 0-0 draws as was the case in the game before against the New England Revolution. This unbeaten streak has included six draws with four being 0-0.
Cucho Hernandez, the 23-year-old Colombian forward, made a fantastic start to his Columbus Crew career with four goals in three games. He was never likely to continue going on such a run but just when it looked like Columbus Crew’s goal scoring problems were gone, they’re back to square one.
His first three goals came off the bench and it might be a case of going back to that. Lots of players aren’t capable of having the same impact as starters. The example of the England women’s Euro Cup side is a good case in point. The likes of Alessia Russo and Ella Toone got all their goal contributions, eight of them, off the bench. Keeping someone like Cucho on the bench after the start he’s made might seem a bit bizarre but it’s worth attempting again if the team starts turning tight encounters into wins.
Hernandez joined Columbus Crew from English Premier League side, Watford, in June for a club-record $10.5 million transfer fee.
Despite all the issues in attack, the defense has kept two clean sheets in a row. That’s always positive and has been a strength all season. They’ve only conceded 22 goals so far, which is third best in the Eastern Conference with an expected goal against value of 25.3, which isn’t too bad either.
It seemed like Cucho Hernandez had solved their attacking woes but there might be more work needed. The last two games were a great chance to show that step up in quality but with no wins to show for the strong defensive performances, they’re still not quite in the elite bracket that they hope to be a part of.
Defensive midfielder, Artur, has been out with a leg injury for a little over a month now with no expected return date.
CF Montreal are in good nick once again, going unbeaten in three and holding their own against New York City FC in a 0-0 draw. The side had a little scare prior to this run but they seem to have shaken it off now. They’re in 3rd place on the Eastern Conference standings and have merited that despite some bad luck.
The expected goals against metric has them as the best defensive side in the Eastern Conference with a value of 23.5. They look even better than Philadelphia Union and New York City FC in this department but goalkeeper Sebastian Breza has let the team down a little, which is why they’ve conceded 36 goals. This is pretty significant underperformance. A decision should be made soon on his future because it looks like they’re a few upgrades away from becoming one of the top sides in the league.
Djordje Mihailovic and Romell Quioto have been excellent in front of goal this season but they’ve lacked a proper playmaker to create the chances for the side. The two have combined to score 16 goals but Mihailovic has massively overperformed, whereas Quioto has managed to get closer to his underlying numbers.
Mihailovic is also their most creative force but only has an expected assists value of 3.9. The two have been scoring their goals from scraps. Their 36 goals from an expected goal value of 31.2 doesn’t even out the bad luck in goal but it shows you where the problems lie and how it could be fixed with a few changes.
A top playmaker and a goalkeeper to take this side to great heights. They’re able to compete against the top sides in the league without those players for the moment but these additions could make them very real title challengers and that should be the aim for next season since the chances of winning it all are a little slim for the time being.
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|Columbus Crew vs CF Montreal
|Wednesday, August 3 at 7.30 pm EST onwards
|How to watch
|TVA Sports, ESPN+, Bally Sports Great Lakes and TSN
Varun is a web journalist who has been writing on sports for 13 years. He took a shine for the MLS during the 2021 season and has been following it and writing about it since, alongside his work involving the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Serie A. He is deeply interested in soccer analytics and strategy and has aspirations to move into coaching at some point. Email: [email protected]More info on Varun Shetty
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