MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact certainly hope to win their playoff race, but first winning a fitness race helps.
Without confirming it outright, Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum hinted on Friday afternoon that Marco Di Vaio, Patrice Bernier and Justin Mapp would all be available for selection this Saturday for his team’s crucial date with the New England Revolution at Stade Saputo (2:30 pm ET; TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in US).
Di Vaio alone would be a huge boost for Montreal’s chances: His ankle injury, sustained while warming up for their 1-0 loss against the Dynamo last Friday, would have left the Impact without a formidable weapon as they hope to draw closer to a postseason berth. Di Vaio's 14 home goals this season account for nearly half of the Impact’s tally at Stade Saputo, and two wins in their last two home fixtures would all but secure Montreal’s first-ever MLS playoff spot.
“It’s an important match for the club’s history and for us to make a step toward the playoffs,” Schällibaum told reporters. “We’ve settled upon a good combination [of players], and we also have to think about [next] Wednesday and Saturday. It’s another busy week ahead of us.”
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In that respect, Bernier and Mapp recovering their fitness as well comes in handy for Schällibaum. Bernier was a late scratch off the bench in Houston due to a hip injury, while Mapp came off the training field on Wednesday with groin tightness.
“[Di Vaio, Bernier and Mapp] are all quality players, and I can tell you I’m happy,” Schällibaum said. “We’ll have more choice for tomorrow, but for Wednesday and Saturday as well. I’m glad. Even with some players unable to play tomorrow, we have quality backups too. But it complicated matters ahead of the next games.”