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Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United preview: Throwback Thursday - To live and die against the Quebec Counterattack

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The Impact have an identity, and it nearly won them the Champions League. Can United deal with the Montreal break with less anxiety than their last visit to Francophone Canada?

To think, it was only last fall that Eddie Johnson was starting for D.C. United and Samuel Inkoom was coming off the bench to provide late service. Fast forward nine months or so, and the Black-and-Red have come full circle on the center forward position, finally replacing EJ with Alvaro Saborio, and Inkoom is now better known in these parts for trashing a house than anything on the soccer field. Some things don't change, though: los Capitalinos lead the Eastern Conference.

Some things don't change with this weekend's opponents, either. The Montreal Impact are a deadly counterattacking team. Marco Di Vaio may have retired, but the Impact still look to sit deep and break with speed.Tthis season will go down as, by far, the most successful season L'Impact have enjoyed to date, and that's before we even consider the fact that their counterattack carried them to the CONCACAF Champions League final. Montreal knows how to ride an identity. But, that identity may have to change when they put their own new center forward onto the field, some guy named Didier Drogba.

But even when Drogba debuts - which may come this weekend, though who knows? - defending deep and breaking out is so ingrained into the way les Bleu-Blanc-Noir play that it may take most of Drogba's 18-month contract to break the mold, assuming Frank Klopas even wants to.

Looking back at United's most recent visit to Stade Saputo, a 1-1 draw that saw United strike on a set piece through Fabian Espindola after Marco Di Vaio put the Impact ahead in his farewell match, we can see a lot of what was right and wrong with both teams' 2014 editions. United had a good systemic defense, but it was vulnerable in transition, which is exactly what Montreal is built to exploit. In most other aspects, the Impact weren't very good, but even with Eddie Johnson in the XI, DC had trouble generating chances.

Here's hoping the version of the DCU attack we've seen the past two weeks - the one that's scored 9 goals over that span - takes the show on the road, while the suddenly leaky defense - 6 goals over two games is icky - tightens it up for the trip to Queebec. Here's also hoping the forwards and midfield are cognizant that even sans-Di Vaio and with some important pieces like Justin Mapp on the shelf, the Impact are a playoff team this year, and their success hinges on getting the ball on the counter attack.