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After playing the first six matches on the road, the Montreal Impact are finally ready to enjoy their first-ever home opener at Stade Saputo.
The Impact make that much-anticipated home debut Saturday against the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew, who will be eying a third straight victory.
In a decision not to play any early 2019 home matches at the cavernous and often sparsely-attended Olympic Stadium, the Impact (2-2-2) had to open the campaign with six consecutive road games. Though daunting at times, in the end, the club fared relatively well, and enter this contest at cozy Stade Saputo following a pair of scoreless draws against New York City FC and D.C. United - the most recent coming Tuesday night.
"It's a satisfaction for the team and for the club," star midfielder Saphir Taider, who has three goals with an assist this season, told Montreal's official website following the D.C. fixture. "In the end, the result is positive after six away games and eight points taken."
Montreal, which opened all its previous home campaigns at Olympic Stadium, went 11-4-2 in home matches last season. One of those victories came against Columbus, 3-0 on Oct. 6 to halt an 0-3-2 slide in the series. Taider managed a goal with two assists in that contest.
"It's always just a difficult place to play," Crew midfielder Wil Trapp told the club's official website. "I think that's because of how they play. Home or away, (the Impact) are a wily type of team that can defend well. They can counterattack well, and they have guys that can hurt you."
One of those guys is star midfielder Ignacio Piatti, who also scored in that home victory versus Columbus last season. However, it's uncertain if the veteran midfielder will be fit enough from a knee injury to return from a three-game absence.
The Crew (4-1-1) own 13 points, two better than second-place D.C. United in the East. Columbus has allowed just four goals on the season, and none while taking down Atlanta and New England in the last two games.
Josh Williams' goal off a set-piece just before halftime was all the Crew needed to post a 1-0 home win over the Revolution last weekend.
"I've never seen a good team that's not good defensively, especially championship teams, they're always good defensively," Columbus coach Caleb Porter said. "You're not out-scoring teams every game, that's unrealistic… And, 1-0 is a great win. You don't need 2, you don't need 3."
Columbus will hit the road for a third time in 2019. It won 2-0 at New England early last month, then suffered its lone defeat, 3-0 at Philadelphia on March 23.
Updated April 11, 2019