For their last game before the World Cup "break," D.C. United takes on the Montreal Impact with a chance to jump into first place in the conference. To preview the game, we had an abbreviated chat with Sofiane Benzaza of Mount Royal Soccer.
Questions for Mount Royal Soccer
B&RU: Montreal just beat the best team in the Eastern Conference, the New England Revolution; what did they do different to get that result?
MRS: The team is playing as a unit defensively and offensively. Frank Klopas challenged his players and demanded total engagement. He has instilled internal competition as he integrated new acquisitions and players returning from injury. The Montreal Impact is starting to look more and more like a team and not just 11 players put on the pitch. The days of "Rolling the dice" must be over for the Impact to have a chance to be in the race for a playoff spot.
B&RU: Montreal also got into the trade market early in the season, acquiring Issey Nakajima-Farran for Collen Warner and Futty Danso for a second-round pick. How have these trades looked so far?
MRS: Danso has not played yet in MLS but I will not be surprised to see him start against D.C. United this evening. Nakajima-Farran played one of the best games played by an Impact during the 2-0 win against the Revolution. He has brought a physical aspect to the left side with speed and intensity
B&RU: Congratulations on winning the Voyageurs Cup! Do you think that this run of form that the team has been on will continue, or a nice blip in the middle of a down season?
MRS: The most important part of the winning the Voyageurs Cup is ...winning! . Adding another trophy is important especially against Toronto FC but winning was even more important. The bleu-blanc-noir had to get positive results and take advantage of the momentum it got from its 2-0 win against New England.
The hard work that the staff and players have put in is giving dividends as results are going their way. This is not a run for the MLS Cup but add another against DC and the Impact can be a force to be reckoned with after the World Cup break.
B&RU: Injuries and lineup, por favor.
MRS: Nyassi (ankle) Rivas (hip)
Perkins ; Camara, Danso, Pearce, Ouimette ; Bernardello, Bernier, Mapp, Nakajima-Farran ; McInerney, Di Vaio
Questions for Black and Red United
MRS: How have D.C. United performed since we last met?
B&RU: Since we last met the Montreal Impact, D.C. United have finally thrown two monkeys off of their backs: they finally beat the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City, and have moved into second place in the Eastern Conference. Should they manage a win against L'Impact, they would move into first just in time for the World Cup "break."
MRS: What are the team's greatest strengths right now?
B&RU: Their strengths right now are their midfield, especially in the center. Davy Arnaud and Perry Kitchen have formed a great partnership and have been able to harry opposing midfields. Chris Rolfe has also looked good since coming over in a trade from the Chicago Fire. However, the fourth midfielder, Nick DeLeon, has looked poor throughout this season, having no one really on the bench to push him. Early in the season we thought that he might be on the road to turning it around, but he has fallen back into a slump.
MRS:... and their greatest weaknesses?
B&RU: The weaknesses of the team are still in the attack. Fabian Espindola, as great as he has been, cannot carry the attack by himself. He also missed a panenka penalty kick this past weekend. I mentioned Nick DeLeon above, and of course we are still waiting for Eddie Johnson to have a breakout game. Signs of life from either of them in this game would make me happy.
MRS: Injuries and lineup?:
B&RU: Chris Pontius and Michael Seaton are both out, and Chris Korb and Nana Attakora were both out last week and so are unlikely to play. Jeff Parke got hurt right before kickoff on Saturday, and is doubtful for tonight's game.
With that said, a likely lineup is Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Cristian Fernandez; Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Chris Rolfe; Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson.