Impact look to stifle Quakes attack without Nesta's help

Hassoun Camara and Matteo Ferrari

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MONTREAL – At the moment, the focus in Montreal Impact camp is on picking up maximum points and making a push for the playoffs, a task the team understands will require both defensive soundness and maintaining its 1.4 goal-per-game rhythm. On Saturday, those abilities will be put to agruably their toughest test yet.

Pulling off a defensive masterpiece against the best attack in Major League Soccer will be a stimulating challenge for the Impact, who are likely to again play without center back Alessandro Nesta as they welcome the league-leading San Jose Earthquakes at Stade Saputo (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

WATCH: Montreal grind one out at New England

“At this point, he’s doubtful,” head coach Jesse Marsch told reporters on Thursday. “More than anything, I think we need to be smart with him and just progress him in a way that makes sense. He’s disappointed, because I know he really wants to play, but we’re all trying to do this in a way that can make sure that he's ready for some big matches down the stretch.”

By all accounts, the Impact’s 1-0 win in New England last weekend was not the prettiest 90 minutes of soccer you will see this season. But it worked, and there are lessons to be learned.

Team captain Davy Arnaud feels that, after last Sunday’s game, he and his teammates learned first-hand that not playing ugly but coming away with a win is just fine. For the skipper, the best Montreal performances come “when we start defensively, as a group, we’re being tough to break down.”

This is what Montreal have managed to do over the past three games, conceding a solitary goal against New York despite having to shuffle the deck every week at the back. Nesta might not play, but the Impact are confident they can keep up their defensive record during that stretch.

And besides, winning a second road game this season – and a third in a row overall – has put the Impact in arguably their finest mindset yet.

“Whoever jumps on the field with us,” defender Jeb Brovsky said, “we’re going to play like it’s the last game of the season.”