This will be the third all time meeting between these two sides, with FC Dallas scoring a 2-1 win in 2012 followed by a scoreless draw in 2013.
Dallas will once again be dealing with some key injuries. Last year's MLS All-Star goalkeeper Raul Fernandez is still recovering from offseason surgery. Big CB George John is also nursing an injury and will miss the season opener. Unfortunately he is not the only defender hurt, as Zach Loyd and Walker Zimmerman also look to be out of action.
The biggest news here is who will not play for Montreal. Talented and dangerous Marco Di Vaio, who scored 20 goals last season, will miss this game due to a suspension dating back to the end of last season. Also, stalwart midfielder Patrice Bernier will not start because he is still getting fit from a knee surgery in December, but is likely to see minutes later in the game. That's 24 goals and 10 assists from a year ago that will be missing from the starting lineup on Saturday. Here is the probable lineup that will take the field:
Goalkeeper: Troy Perkins; RB: Jeb Brovsky; CB: Wandrille Lefevre, Matteo Ferrari; LB: Hassoun Camara; CDM: Collen Warner, Hernan Bernardello; RM: Justin Mapp; LM: Sanna Nyassi; CAM: Felipe Martins; F: Andrew Wenger
Wandrille Lefevre and Matteo Ferrari vs. Blas Perez - Montreal is replacing the retired Alessandro Nesta this season and the central defense could be a little shaky early in the season while they get on the same page. Montreal needs their CB's to be very solid against Blas to earn a result on the road.
Justin Mapp vs. FC Dallas team defense - When Montreal was playing at their best last season, it was usually when Justin Mapp was at his best. Mapp likes to get wide, beat his man off the dribble and create chances via crosses or cut back passes. Especially with Di Vaio out, Montreal will rely on Mapp to generate offense. Dallas must close him out and closely defend any passes he does manage to deliver.
Keys To Three Points
Toyota Stadium should be full and ready to go for Opening Kick. Everyone is tired of speculating on how this young FC Dallas team will do and are ready to start seeing results.
First off, it's hard to overstate just how much Di Vaio being out of the lineup affects this game. There were times last season when the sole focus for the Impact seemed to be getting Di Vaio the ball in dangerous areas. With him missing this game and replaced by the talented but inexperienced Andrew Wenger, it remains to be seen exactly how Montreal will attempt to attack the Dallas defense. More than likely, they will rely on the creative abilities of Felipe Martins and Justin Mapp, both of whom recorded eight assists last season.
Playing on the road without two of their best attacking players, expect Montreal to defend first and look to spring quick counter attacks through these two players. Frank Klopas, the new Montreal manager, always played extremely direct as manager of Chicago, and don't be surprised to see that trend continue.
Another major key to this game will be how much Fabian Castillo and the other Dallas wings can generate danger on the flanks. If they can stretch the Montreal defense by effectively adding width to the attack, Mauro Diaz and Blas Perez should be able to find space to work. And if they do, it will almost certainly result in chances against a defense that gave up more goals than any other playoff team last season.
Finally, how will this young Dallas team respond in a pressure filled regular season game? If FCD expects to be a playoff team, this is the kind of game where they need to get a result. A home game against a team that is less than full strength. Can Oscar Pareja coax a good effort out of a team that is talented on paper, but is young and doesn't have much experience playing together, especially after the mostly listless performance against San Antonio to finish out the preseason?
I, for one, have faith. I expect Blas to be very dangerous in this game, and I expect Hendry Thomas to be a disruptive force that helps out the backline. It won't all be sunshine and rainbows, but I believe Dallas will grind out a hard fought win.
How do you the fans see this one turning out? Answer the poll and explain your answer in the comments section.