The Montreal Impact make their return to BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live), the site where their 2013 season came to a sorry end in an MLS Cup playoffs loss to the Houston Dynamo.
Of course, it wasn’t only the loss that left the Impact with a bad taste in their mouths. It was how it transpired.
First Nelson Rivas was sent off for picking up a second yellow card. And then Marco Di Vaio and Andrés Romero got into a stoppage-time kerfuffle and were duly ejected. Noteworthy as three red cards in one game are, it was the skirmish that became the night’s lasting image.
Is this Saturday likely to feature bad blood once again? The Impact say it’s off their minds, however, ahead of their first match against the Dynamo since the episode.
“I don’t know about bad blood,” Justin Mapp told MLSsoccer.com by phone earlier this week. “It’s always a fiercely competed game, as I feel all MLS games are – highly competitive and intense.”
For a start, none of the dismissed will be there. Rivas only picked up a one-game suspension, but he’s been recuperating from a hamstring injury at home in Colombia since mid-February and is expected back in Montreal this weekend. Di Vaio – who apologized for his actions last November – and Romero conveniently have two more games to serve.
They’ll thus miss a fixture that typically features goals, physical play – and cards. Montreal insist that their only target is a first-ever win in Houston.
“Obviously, there was a little incident at the end of last year’s game,” Mapp said. “It didn’t end well for us, with the result. It's a new year, though. You kind of got to let those things go, and you just go out there and win a soccer game.”
Added assistant coach Mauro Biello: “We must focus on what we have to do and on what we’ve been working on. That’s it.”
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Biello also believes that Montreal must focus, period, as their season opener against FC Dallas wasn’t quite as encouraging at the back as it was up front.
Untimely lapses in concentration wrecked the Impact in a 3-2 loss Saturday, and Biello said such mistakes could cost them points again if Dynamo forward Will Bruin – who scored two goals before Di Vaio and Romero saw red in October – is as quick on the draw as he was last weekend against the New England Revolution.
Bruin notched a brace in Houston’s season-opening win Saturday over New England.
“We must, in those moments, be watchful and focus on certain things during the game so that we’re prepared,” Biello told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Thursday. “We’re working on that defensively, but there were some good things on Saturday. Yet we struggled to focus at certain times, and that was costly.”