MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact’s dramatic 2-1 win against the Philadelphia Union this past Saturday relieved the tension around the Quebec club, but any other result this Saturday against Toronto FC would do the exact opposite, and the Impact have a history of disappointing results in Ontario.
Should Toronto continue to keep Montreal winless at BMO Field, where the Impact are 0-1-1 this season and 0-4-3 in all competitions dating back to the 2008 Canadian Championship, Montreal would then sit nervously and hope for a New England, Chicago or Houston slip-up on Sunday. And that doesn’t sit too well with the Impact, who would prefer that every game kick off simultaneously on the final weekend of the MLS season.
“It's not fair, but that's the way it is,” head coach Marco Schällibaum told reporters on Tuesday. “We're playing before everybody else, and for the teams still in it, it's important that we play at the same time. Certain things can happen, like a team deciding before its game that a point is enough. But it doesn’t change our attitude. We’re going to Toronto with only one objective: winning.”
A win would clinch third place in the Eastern Conference for Montreal and spark wild celebrations in the away supporters section. It would also send the Impact to their first MLS Cup Playoffs and, crucially, allow them to avoid the one-game Knockout Round.
The final-game showdown, with one already-eliminated club trying to spoil the other's party, kindles memories of June 18, 2009, when Toronto beat Montreal 6-1 at Stade Saputo in the last group game of the Canadian Championship and lifted their first trophy. The Impact have changed significantly since that game, moving from the United Soccer League's First Division up to MLS, but Saturday represents an opportunity for some measure of revenge.
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The circumstances, however, have clearly shifted. Montreal was already eliminated from the Canadian Championship in 2009 and, with a league game on the weekend, had seemingly no interest in playing spoiler. This year, Toronto has no other games to worry about, and the 2013 Impact expect Toronto to relish their opportunity to hurt Montreal's playoff chances.
“This will make their season,” Impact 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 had this whole season, would be a huge relief for them going into next year.”
Although they have not posted a shutout in their last eight games, Montreal come in full of confidence after snapping a six-game winless streak last weekend against Philadelphia. A first-ever win at BMO Field would provide a tremendous boost going into the playoffs.
“The morale is very high,” Schällibaum said. “With those strong emotions, I even feared that the stadium might explode when the 2-1 goal went in. We lived very nice, intense moments. [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.”