MONTREAL – On Saturday against the Columbus Crew (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), the Montreal Impact kick off a hopefully redemptory second half of the season.
Currently nine points away from a playoff spot, Montreal picked up 14 points in their first 17 games of the 2014 campaign. That’s four fewer points than in their 2012 inaugural season, when they ended up seventh in the Eastern Conference and out of the postseason. The following year in 2013, they had 31 points after 17 games which helped them eek into the playoffs on the goals-scored tiebreaker after a stunning late-season collapse.
Their current total could've been marginally better had Montreal not lost their last two matches at the death, suffering on Saturday the same fate that the Crew did on Wednesday: conceding a late winner at home to Sporting Kansas City.
But despite the results, the Impact argue that they now match the opposition’s intensity better, and they do look better defensively. The three goals conceded in their last four games is an obvious improvement compared to their average of two goals conceded per game in their opening 13 fixtures.
“It’s up to us to keep going like that, to reach for perfection – even if it doesn’t exist – defensively and to try to score when we need to,” defender Hassoun Camara told reporters on Thursday. “That’s our approach for the remaining 17 games. Lots of points are up for grabs, no matter what people think, and we’ll do everything to get even with that bad half of the season.”
With two away games in six days coming up – Real Salt Lake await next Thursday – Montreal are left to ponder the results they need on the road to push for the playoffs. Improving defensively gives you a chance, but it won’t suffice: They’ll need to score more than 17 goals (second lowest total in MLS) in the second half of the season, and they know it.
“I think we need to get numbers forward,” striker Jack McInerney said. “I think we’ve put in a lot of work defending, because we had some struggles before, keeping the ball out of the net. I think too many people are kind of sitting back now; whether it’s me or Marco [Di Vaio] or Justin [Mapp] or anyone else, we need to get numbers in the box. That’s the only way we’re going to create opportunities for the team, create chances and finish them.”
Added assistant coach Mauro Biello: “Marco and Jack have scored. We have two wingers, [Andres] Romero and Mapp, who can unbalance defenses. If we get consistency in our lineup – not just three or four who play well, but nine or 10 players who play complete games – we’ll be able to win games.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.