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Sputtering Crew aims to stop slide vs. Impact
While Columbus Crew SC wants to better distribute their scoring, they wouldn't mind an individual effort like the one turned in by midfielder Justin Meram in the last meeting with the Montreal Impact.
Meram had three goals in the 3-2 win at Montreal on May 13, but there have been few bright spots since for Columbus (7-9-1) heading into the Impact's visit to Mapfre Stadium on Saturday.
The Crew have lost two straight and four of five as they continue to struggle at both ends of the field.
Meram (eight goals) is tied for the team lead with Ola Kamara. Federico Higuain, who has equaled his career-best scoring streak with goals in three straight matches, is next with seven and the trio has 23 of the Crew's 25 goals this season.
The other goals were by Ethan Finlay in the first game and rookie Niko Hansen in the fourth match against Portland on March 25. Columbus is approaching three months without someone other than Meram, Kamara or Higuain finding the back of the net.
Hansen underwent hernia surgery on Wednesday and is expected to miss three games.
Crew coach Gregg Berhalter is just as concerned about the Crew's psyche after a 3-1 loss at Atlanta in the last match.
"We've shown of being a very good team," he said. "It's the inconsistencies that's been most frustrating with the group.
"Even the game in Atlanta we reasonably could be up 3-1 at the half. Instead, it's 1-1 and then when we have the momentum and give up the second goal against the run of play. We need to get the confidence as a group. As we continue to work together, that will come."
Montreal is only 4-4-6 but has two wins and two ties in its past four matches. The Impact tied Toronto FC 1-1 on Wednesday in the first leg of the Canadian Championship using most of their MLS starters.
Impact coach Mauro Biello rued the missed chances that could have made the difference.
"We had them often on the break, but our final pass lacked rhythm," he said. "If we would have been more clinical in that area on the counter, we could have hurt them."
Columbus is sixth in the Eastern Conference with 22 points, four ahead of ninth-place Montreal -- although the Impact have played three fewer matches.
Updated June 23, 2017