San Jose Earthquakes vs Montreal Impact: Storylines and What to Watch For

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LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 11: The San Jose Earthquakes starting XI pose for a group photo prior to their California Clasico game aginst the Los Angeles Galaxy at Cashman Field on February 11, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. San Jose won 1-0. (Photo by David J. Becker/Getty Images)

San Jose Earthquakes supporters will finally be able to witness the true commence to the Fioranelli era at Avaya against visiting Montreal Impact. A busy offseason has given the Bay Area side a discrete look, but not enough to convince the pundits that they are heading towards playoff direction. An almost unchanged Impact squad that made it to the Eastern Conference finals last year; will give the Quakes a run for their money.

San Jose Earthquakes vs Montreal Impact: Storylines and What to Watch For

Three Points Undone Against Montreal

In five MLS matches against the Canadian-side; the black and blue are yet to defeat them. The latest result came in week 30 of last year’s season, when a heavy counterattacking Impact side was able to put three goals past Bingham. Montreal will try to do the same this time around as head coach Mauro Biello is all but married to his tactical preferences.

First Taste of Revamped Quakes

This offseason was a complete rollercoaster for Quakes supporters. It offered despair after former general manager John Doyle’s dismissal, due to a prolonged announcement of his successor in Jesse Fioranelli. The feelings quickly turned from possibly enduring another catastrophic year without the playoffs to a hope bonanza after five new international signings arrived in San Jose. Head coach Dominic Kinnear’s release of what is an unpredictable starting XI will give supporters a good season kickoff sampling platter.

Jahmir Hyka’s MLS Debut

The 28-year-old Albanian midfielder can be the biggest difference maker the club has seen in the past five years due to his raw individual skill sets. Hyka featured for a half against Sacramento Republic in last Saturday’s preseason finale, and delivered a goal in his Avaya Stadium debut. Whether Hyka will feature in Kinnear’s starting XI is still up in the air, but the “Albanian Messi” is arguably the craftiest player in San Jose’s 27 man roster. Hyka will likely play as a left midfielder if featured, but will shift behind the forwards at time and serve more as a central attacking midfielder. San Jose will prosper from this mechanism of creativity if the number 10 is positioned correctly.

Montreal’s Dependency on Ignacio Piatti

The Impact will go after Kinnear’s pressing 4-4-2 formation with a counter-based 4-3-3 that revolves around Ignacio Piatti. The Argentine Designated Player is one of the leagues best attacking pieces and his 17 goals and six assists last season are the numbers that follow the name. The number 10 is the fulcrum of the squad that saw little activity during the offseason, only making one major signing in midfielder Adrian Arregui. Expect to see the backline dump balls to Piatti on the left side during hard counters, and forward Matteo Mancosu to serve as a decoy in order to allow Piatti to craft his runs inside towards the heart of the final third (where he is most effective). If the Quakes right side are able to slow Piatti’s night, the Montreal side will catastrophically suffer to create scoring opportunities.

Lineup

A viable and reoccurring starting XI was never showcased by coach Kinnear throughout the preseason due to visa related issues and injures. With the new integration of predominantly attacking-based players and overall effective performances from them all across the board: the starting XI dilemma worsened. With that, Kinnear’s traditional 4-4-2 formation does not cater to many of his attacking pieces, and therefore, we will have to see players out of position. Simon Dawkins will continue the tradition, as playing as a right midfielder is huge possibility against Montreal. Take a look:

Prediction

This Montreal side will be a tough first opponent for Kinnear’s new looking side. This game will emulate that of a chess match in which the Quakes high-pressing style will cause a lot of havoc to Montreal’s back four causing forced errors on their own first third of the pitch. The new Quakes attacking additions will be fast to display their worth and will hand the Bay-Area side a hard-earned 2-1 victory in this year’s opener.

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