After the Montreal Impact ended last season with an ugly loss to the Houston Dynamo in a playoff match that featured an even uglier display of sportsmanship, both sides won’t let that incident cloud their meeting Saturday night.
The Dynamo hope to build on an impressive season-opening victory and remain undefeated at home against the Impact in the rematch.
Montreal’s first playoff appearance ended with a 3-0 defeat at Houston on Halloween night in last year’s knockout round. While the loss concluded a brutal 1-7-1 final stretch for the Impact, it also left them short-handed to begin this season.
With defender Nelson Rivas already out after earning his second yellow card of the game, teammates Marco Di Vaio and Andres Romero got into a shoving match with several Houston players at the end of the contest. The incident resulted in three-game suspensions for Di Vaio, the team leader with 20 goals in 2013, and Romero, leaving each with two more games to serve after sitting out Saturday’s 3-2 loss at FC Dallas.
Rivas is eligible to return after serving his one-game suspension but will miss this match with a hamstring injury.
Without some key contributors, the Impact’s focus Saturday is on being competitive and not physical payback.
"It’s a new year," Montreal midfielder Justin Mapp told the league’s official website. "You kind of got to let those things go, and you just go out there and win a soccer game."
The Dynamo, who reached the Eastern Conference finals last season, also don’t expect tempers to heat up once again.
"I don’t really think the way the game finished, I don’t think that has anything to do with Saturday’s game," goalkeeper Tally Hall told the team’s official website. "It was for them, the end of their season on a fairly bad night for them, and emotions got the better of them, so that happens in games – especially in playoff games.
"I think the fact that we knocked them out, not so much the fight in the corner, will be probably extra motivation for them. It would be for us."
Though the Impact own an 11-2 goal advantage in winning the three all-time home meetings with the Dynamo, they’ve been outscored 8-1 while going 0-3-1 at Houston.
After the loss to FC Dallas, Montreal’s attempt to rebound won’t be easy against a Dynamo squad that rolled to a 4-0 home win over New England last Saturday.
Will Bruin, who scored twice against the Impact in the playoffs, had two goals with an assist against the Revolution. His goal 1:04 into the match was the second-fastest in Houston history.
"I think we definitely sent a message and set the tone for this season," said Dynamo defender Kofi Sarkodie, who also was involved in the pushing and shoving with Montreal last season.
"We were resilient defensively and guys were everywhere. The mentality was really good and I think this team’s serious and really trying to make a push this year."