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Shut out in last two, Drogba-less Impact look for goals against Columbus

In this file photo, Montreal Impact players, including defender Victor Cabrera, center, midfielder Eric Alexander, second from left, and defender Hassoun Camara, second from right, form a wall to block a free kick by Seattle Sounders midfielder Clint Dempsey during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Saturday, April 2, 2016, in Seattle. Ted S. Warren/AP photo

MONTREAL – They were hot and now they’re not, but the Montreal Impact hope to get the fire going again with a revenge win over the Columbus Crew.

The Impact squad that scored six goals in a pair of wins to open the Major League Soccer season was shut out in the next two outings, both on the road. They’d like to find the back of the net again
Saturday when the Crew visit Olympic Stadium.

“We’re coming off two losses so there’s no excuse for us to pretend it’s early in the season so we don’t have to care,” forward Dominic Oduro said Friday. “I don’t want to put too much emphasis
on it and say it’s a must-win game, but we’re at home and we’re coming off two losses.”

For a third game in a row, the Impact will face a club that is off to a slow start. The Impact lost 2-0 in Dallas three weeks ago and surrendered three points in a 1-0 defeat in Seattle last week on
a late Clint Dempsey goal off a corner kick.

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The Crew (0-2-2) are coming off a 1-1 draw with Dallas, which was missing top playmaker Mauro Diaz.

In Montreal, the Crew won’t have to face star striker Didier Drogba, who will begin playing regularly when the Impact move onto a grass pitch at their real home, Saputo Stadium.

Drogba’s only appearance this season was 20 minutes on grass in Dallas. Four of the team’s five first matches are on synthetic surfaces, which are hard on the 38-year-old’s knees.

Drogba scored 11 goals in as many games after joining the Impact last summer, but the former Chelsea marksman was shut out as Columbus won a two-game Eastern Conference semifinal 4-3 on
aggregate over Montreal in November.

Much of the credit went to the Crew’s central defence of Michael Parkhurst and in-season acquisition Gaston Sauro. Now they have to deal with Oduro’s speed instead of Drogba’s size and subtle touch around the goal.

“Didier’s a different player,” said Oduro. “He’s a target striker while I’m more the kind that makes runs behind.”

“I’ll make it hard for (Sauro) to deal with that. I’m not saying he’s not fast but I know I have the advantage in a foot race. That’s my strength and I have to use it. I won’t get physical with the guy, I’ll just beat him with my feet and the pace that I have.”

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Columbus, which has scored only three goals in its first four games, counters with a big, Drogba-like striker in Kei Kamara, who tied Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco for the MLS lead with 22 goals last season. Kamara skipped training this week with a knee problem but is expected to play.

Kamara scored twice against Montreal in the decisive match of the playoffs and is particularly dangerous on set pieces, which has been Montreal’s Achilles heel this season. Four of the five goals
conceded so far have come off free kicks and corners.

“We’re working on the details,” said coach Mauro Biello. “When a set piece happens, everyone has a responsibility. It starts with organizing, positioning, focus, and then you’ll be in a better position to defend it.”

It will be the second of two games at Olympic Stadium before the Impact move into Saputo Stadium on April 23 against TFC.

Left back Ambroise Oyongo was back at training after missing two games and will be available to play, but likely won’t start. That would put fullback Hassoun Camara into a third straight match.
Midfielder Marco Donadel remains sidelined with a leg injury.

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