The Montreal Impact have a tremendous opportunity to avenge a pair of losses to Orlando City SC earlier this season when they meet the Lions in a match with huge Eastern Conference implications at Camping World Stadium on Sunday (1 pm ET; ESPN in the US, TVA Sports in Canada).
Montreal significantly bolstered their hopes of a playoff berth when they ended a four-game winless streak with a 3-1 win against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday. The Impact are now in position to not only move closer to clinching, but could also possibly deal Orlando's playoff hopes a fatal blow on Sunday.
"Well I think the fact that they beat us both times, and beat us at home, is obviously something that we're conscious of," Montreal head coach Mauro Biello said after practice in Montreal on Friday. "They came into our stadium and beat us and now is an opportunity for us to pay them back. We know it's going to be a difficult game. They're a team that's fighting for their lives, and we have to be ready for everything."
Both have plenty at stake on Sunday. Montreal are currently in fifth in the East, five points above the red line. They could lock up a playoff berth with a win on Sunday, if New England lose or draw to Sporting Kansas City and Columbus lose or draw against Chicago on Saturday night.
Things are looking a little different for Orlando. City are in eighth in the East, four points behind D.C. for the sixth and final playoff spot. They’d be eliminated from playoff contention if they fall on Sunday and D.C. beat Toronto on Saturday.
The fact that Orlando has so much at stake makes them dangerous, yet potentially vulnerable, too, according to Impact defender Wandrille Lefevre.
"It plays in our favor, knowing that they don't have any choice," Lefevre said. "They're going to have to push, they're going to have to cheat, so if we're ready on defense to fight to regain the ball if we lose it, that's where we'll give ourselves the best chance to go back on the attack and in the end break through against them."
Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush is well aware of Orlando's success against him this season, but the opportunity for payback pales in comparison to the game's playoff implications for both teams.
"You play teams three times a year so you can get revenge on anybody at any point. So we've struggled with them obviously in the past, the home game here and down there. We've had some close games but couldn't pull it out in the end, and they're a good team. They give us trouble but we're excited for that challenge and we know that they're going to throw everything at us because they need full points so as long as we can absorb some blows and weather the storm, you know, I think we'll be able to find chances ourselves."
Montreal fell 2-1 to Orlando in Florida back in May before dropping a 4-1 decision at Stade Saputo on Sept. 7. If the Impact are to avenge those earlier defeats on Sunday, they’ll have to do so without a trio of capable defenders. Victor Cabrera and Hassoun Camara will both miss Sunday’s encounter due to suspension, while Donny Toia is not yet ready to return from injury.
"It's tough but we've got guys,” Bush said. “[Kyle] Fisher played a good game against LA, when he played. Wandrile's obviously played a lot of games and he's been good when he's played, so I have confidence in those guys.
“I don't think we'll skip a beat. It's tough to shuffle guys around and find the chemistry with the ball a little bit harder, but defensively I think those guys will step in and be fine."