MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact's mission this weekend? Ensuring that a history of early goals with a touch of bad luck doesn’t repeat itself.
Their most recent game in Chicago was five minutes old when a Joel Lindpere effort deflected off Impact forward Daniele Paponi on its way past Troy Perkins. Then, in the 23rd minute, a Dilly Duka individual effort ended with Alessandro Nesta making the tackle but inadvertently knocking the ball back into Duka's path for a cool finish.
As Chicago stand one point off fifth place in the Eastern Conference, Montreal are getting set for another early push against the ropes from the Fire this Saturday at Toyota Park (8:30 pm ET, MLSsoccer.com Stream of the Week). And given that they’ve also shipped eight goals in their last three MLS fixtures, the Impact will be extra vigilant.
“For us, it’s important to start the game well, especially since we’re working a lot on our defensive principles,” assistant coach Mauro Biello told reporters on Thursday. “When we go on the road, we must close the gap between the lines, and we must press and cover, have this kind of balance within the group.”
“If it doesn’t work [for them] at the start, they’ll have to open up the play and try and score goals,” Biello continued. “We’ll have to be good defensively, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Physically, Montreal should be up to the defensive task. Of their first-choice defense of Hassoun Camara, Alessandro Nesta, Matteo Ferrari and Jeb Brovsky, who all played three games in eight days last week, only Camara wasn’t rested in Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League win over CD Heredia.
At the other end, Montreal will need to shake off their lethargy over the past three games, and they are under no illusions: for them to pick up points in Chicago – and next week in Houston against the Dynamo – the counter-attacks must be quick and lethal.
“We have to prepare well, because if we want to make the playoffs, we must play two great away games,” forward Marco Di Vaio said. “We must grab as many points as possible. Chicago’s a good team trying one last push for the playoffs. It will be very difficult physically and mentally. We have to prepare well and find solutions to play well, defend well and play on the counter.”