Whitecaps FC-Impact Preview
A point from an occasional draw isn't going to do anything to improve the Vancouver Whitecaps' playoff chances. That's the best they've managed in their last five matches, and it won't get any easier in Saturday's road game against the Montreal Impact.
The good news is they'll likely have captain Jay DeMerit back in the starting 11. The bad is he isn't much of a goal scorer.
Vancouver has been shut out three times in a five-match winless streak that has produced three goals and two points. The club is also mired in an 0-3-3 skid on the road.
DeMerit, a World Cup-seasoned defender who ruptured his left Achilles in the first match of the season, came on as an unexpected first-half substitute for injured Brad Rusin last Saturday in a scoreless draw with San Jose.
Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie hadn't considered DeMerit ready to return in a starting role, but a trio of defensive injuries has essentially forced him to reconsider. Though he conceded the 34-year-old DeMerit was exhausted after an hour of playing time, Rennie is not exactly complaining about having him back.
"He is one of those guys who does have intangibles that maybe do make a difference," Rennie told the team's official website.
DeMerit will anchor a back line looking to shut down the Eastern Conference's highest-scoring team. Montreal (13-8-6) has totaled 46 goals, including 10 in its last four matches.
League scoring leader Marco Di Vaio has been a terror to opposing defenses, with seven goals in his last five league matches, including three two-goal efforts.
Even so, the Impact are looking for some help for Di Vaio in the attack to avoid results like last Saturday's 2-1 loss to Columbus. Di Vaio's 23rd-minute strike provided an early lead, but Columbus responded in the second half and handed Montreal its second home loss of the season.
"For the most part, we played pretty well," midfielder Felipe told the Impact's official website. "For me, I have to help out a little more offensively so we can score goals, create more chances."
However, Montreal followed that effort with a 3-0 loss at San Jose on Tuesday in group play in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"We had a pretty good performance, but we just couldn't find a way to score," coach Marco Schallibaum said. "Our attitude was good and we deserve better tonight."
As they return to MLS play, the Impact can move into a tie atop the East with a win.
The Whitecaps (10-10-8), meanwhile, could get within one spot of playoff position in the West with a victory. They enter two points behind sixth-place FC Dallas, which hosts East-leading New York on Sunday.
Winning in Montreal, where the Impact are 9-2-3, will be a tall order for the Whitecaps. They're 2-8-4 away from home, and their 12 road goals are fewer than all playoff-contending teams other than Chicago and San Jose.
Vancouver leading scorer Camilo has gone four starts without a goal for the first time since his first four matches of the season.
The Brazilian forward scored in the only previous matchup between these Canadian foes, a 2-0 Vancouver win March 10, 2012, in Montreal's first-ever MLS match.