Los Angeles FC-Impact Preview (Apr 19, 2018)
Home is where the heart is. The Montreal Impact hope it's also where the points are.
On the road for its past three matches and five of its first six overall, Montreal will see a familiar face lining up on the other side when it hosts Laurent Ciman and the expansion Los Angeles FC on Saturday afternoon at Saputo Stadium in Montreal.
The Belgian defender became a fan favorite over his three seasons in an Impact uniform before new head coach and director of player personnel Remi Garde traded him in the offseason.
"Personally, I'm focused on my team. I'm not getting ready to face one player, I'm preparing to face a team that is on form, that has had a good start to the season, and that's my priority," Garde told reporters. "It's a special situation for the fans, who got to know Laurent Ciman well. I'm not denying that. But I'm focused on my team."
It's just the second home game for the Impact and the first this season at Saputo after its traditional home opener at Olympic Stadium last month, a 1-0 triumph over Toronto FC.
Montreal (2-4-0) will play four of its next six matches on its own pitch.
"At home, you need to take points," new defender Rudy Camacho, who made his debut last week against the New York Red Bulls, told the team's website. "We'll need to play like we're at home and impose our style of play and do a lot better than we have in the previous few games. Everyone is excited to play in our stadium and see our supporters. I think it will galvanize the entire group."
The Impact is coming off a disappointing second half against the Red Bulls. After allowing an early goal in the first half, midfielder Jeisson Vargas provided hope when his free kick evened up the score before halftime -- his team-leading third goal of the season. But New York put the pressure on when the teams returned to the field, sending the visitors home empty-handed.
"I think it was a good learning experience for the group," defender Daniel Lovitz told the Impact website. "Unfortunately, it came in the form of a loss, and the nature in which we lost, I don't think anyone is too pleased with. It's easy to figure out what we could've done better, the more difficult part is to remain positive, and with our group I don't think it'll be that hard."
LAFC (3-2-0) arrives in Montreal on the heels of a big win against the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend. After conceding nine goals in back-to-back losses, coach Bob Bradley tweaked his formation from a 4-2-3-1 set-up to a 3-4-3. It helped the club snap Vancouver's 11-game home MLS winning streak with a 2-0 victory.
"All year we've talked about building different ideas into the team, where the starting points of where we play stay the same, but you have flexibility on certain nights," Bradley told LAFC's website after the win. "We've done different things in training to make sure that we've got some of that flexibility, and I think on that end (on Friday night) that went really well."
Saturday's match caps off a six-game, season-opening road trip for LAFC. The club unveiled its new home turf, Banc of California Stadium, on Wednesday and will host its first game there next weekend against Seattle.
Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi have led the way offensively for the new franchise, tied for the team lead with four goals apiece. The team's 11 goals are second-best in the Western Conference, behind Sporting Kansas City, and rank fifth in the league overall.