Impact-Toronto FC Preview
With a victory over one of their Canadian rivals, the Montreal Impact will be headed to the playoffs in the franchise's second year of existence.
Though they could very possibly qualify without a win, the Impact are very focused on getting one Saturday to close the regular season as they try for a first-ever road victory over lowly Toronto FC.
After going 12-16-6 during its inaugural MLS season, Montreal (14-12-7) needs only a win Saturday to secure its first playoff berth. That would also assure the club of finishing third in the Eastern Conference and avoiding the single-game knockout round, played between the clubs which end up fourth and fifth.
"We're going to Toronto with only one objective: winning," coach Marco Schallibaum told the Impact's official website.
Schallibaum's team is tied with Chicago for the third-most points in the East (49) but holds the tiebreaker, having scored five more goals than the Fire.
If the Impact tie at Toronto (5-17-11), they will still reach the postseason if Chicago loses to New York on Sunday or plays to a draw and doesn't score five goals more than Montreal. The Impact also would qualify if fifth-place New England or sixth-place Houston - both one point behind - tie or lose Sunday.
A Montreal loss would mean the Revolution and Dynamo must win and Chicago would have to win or tie to keep the Impact out of the playoffs.
Though Toronto's 26 points are tied with Chivas USA for the second-fewest in MLS, its only two defeats in eight home games since June were one-goal losses to playoff-bound teams Seattle and Sporting Kansas City. Montreal has played to a draw in both previous visits to BMO Field, including 3-3 on July 3 after the Impact won 2-1 at home March 16.
The Impact know their Canadian foe would love to play the role of spoiler this weekend.
"This will make their season," Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. "If they can knock us out of the playoffs, or even knock us down to that fifth spot where we have to play an extra game, it'd be great for them. For them to get a result, the way they've (played) this whole season, would be a huge relief for them going into next year."
Though the Impact have lost 1-0 in their last two road games and have only one win away from home since June 1, they're confident after snapping a three-match losing streak and an 0-5-1 slide in league play with a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia last Saturday.
Montreal had gone scoreless for 350-plus minutes before Marco Di Vaio tied the match in the 64th, then Quebec native Karl Ouimette netted his first career goal in the 84th.
"The morale is very high," Schallibaum said. "(The players) are in top shape mentally now that they've experienced that all-important release from the previous games. They're in top shape, very motivated for Saturday's game."
Tied for the MLS lead with 20 goals, Di Vaio has scored in both matches with Toronto this season.
Toronto, coming off consecutive 1-0 road losses to Philadelphia and Chicago, will miss the playoffs for the seventh time in as many MLS seasons, but coach Ryan Nelsen expects a postseason-like atmosphere Saturday.
"It's another important game for us," he told Toronto's official website. "It's good MLS experience."