This is not “it” for the Montreal Impact, but it might as well be.


Montreal cannot qualify for the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs this Saturday, when they face the Colorado Rapids in Commerce City, Colo., but they can take a big step toward that objective.


Win against Colorado, and a four-point gap opens between them and seventh-placed Orlando City SC with two games left. Giving Orlando a lifeline isn’t an option for Montreal, but they have never picked up a point in the Rockies. They’ll need most things to go their way: an inspired Didier Drogba, a secure defense, perhaps some beets at dinner.


The return of Ignacio Piatti, just back from Argentina, where his father’s health has improved, would help, too.


Montreal fans may get their wish. Interim head coach Mauro Biello, speaking to MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday, said that things were “looking good” for Piatti to finally link up with Drogba again after he missed the 2-1 loss at New York Red Bulls on Wednesday.



“I know a lot of people question [Piatti’s absence in New York], but in the end, it was important for Nacho to get back, integrate with the team and just settle down his mind and get some sessions under his legs to be ready to contribute,” Biello said. “Speaking with him, the New York situation was too quick for all factors – the mental aspect, but also traveling all day, arriving on Monday morning 20 minutes before training, without sleeping.”


A fit and prepared Piatti would have been handy on Wednesday, when Montreal looked like a broken team in the first half and desperately needed a spark. Adding to his postgame comments, Biello said on Friday that he needed his players to be ready and proactive from minute one against Colorado.


Back in Montreal's three-game winning streak last month, part of their strength was their compactness, denying opponents time and space to play to their own strengths. In the first 15 minutes of the New York loss, Biello saw “two or three” dangerous chances created through “balls over the top.”


Under pressure to pick up points, Biello said his team has to fix this.


“It’s a massive game for us, like every other one was and every one in front of us will be,” Biello said. “It’s about bouncing back from two sub-par performances that we had in our last two games and getting back on the track that we were on just a week ago, when we were back home. It’s a big game with many implications in terms of us moving forward this season, and I’m confident that the players will be ready to bounce back after a sub-par performance against New York.



“The pressure comes with the situation,” he continued. “You’re fighting and battling to stay in the playoffs, and with that comes the performance. You need to perform well under these conditions. We know what’s at stake. It’s about keeping our focus and concentration throughout the game, and playing how we’re capable of playing.”


It's almost become a habit, but Biello will once more have to juggle with his lineup due to suspensions, injuries and national team call-ups. Ambroise Oyongo (who will serve his one-match ban, having missed his Cameroon call-up due to a visa issue) and Marco Donadel (yellow card accumulation) are the eighth and ninth players to be ruled out of this Saturday’s game.


Biello admitted that this enforced squad rotation has worked well in some cases, less so in others. If Montreal are to become a playoff team soon, Biello is keen to use it as a learning experience for his players, “especially away from home in playoff-type atmospheres.”


“It’s about taking that moment, and it’s not about putting your head down when you’re not playing or in the stands,” Biello said. “Then, when it’s time, you’ve got to perform. This is a professional sport. You can’t control certain things, but when you get called upon, you have responsibilities, and those are things that you can control. It’s about being ready. With all these things going on, I had no choice but to make certain changes and make moves, but everybody’s got to be ready.”