Heading into their final group stage game at the MLS is Back Tournament after losing their first two, expectations were low for the Montreal Impact. Some already figured they had a foot out the door.
Instead, the Impact offered their best performance of the tournament in a 1-0 victory over D.C. United, which was enough to send Montreal through to the knockout phase of the tournament in a wild-card slot.
Their win set up a match Saturday against de facto hosts Orlando City SC (8 pm ET | ESPN2/Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports), who are coming off a strong group stage in which they picked up seven points out of nine, with wins over New York City FC and Inter Miami CF in the process.
"I think the pressure is more on Orlando than us," defender Rod Fanni told reporters on a video conference call Thursday. "We have to be careful. ... But for me, I prefer this position because if we win, if something good happens for us, it’s like a miracle. But for us no pressure."
Head coach Thierry Henry agrees.
"They are on a run and doing well since the beginning of the tournament," Henry said of Orlando. "We started well this season — well-ish, if I can say. ... We already know what type of team it is. We played them in preseason. A lot of legs, guys in the middle with a brain and Nani can understand moments, when to go and not go, when to pause. They have a coach who’s been in the league for a very long time. So it’s going to be a tough one for us. This is a team that we do respect a lot but anything can happen in one game."
That preseason game Henry referenced saw Nani score the lone goal. Orlando's lineup that day included many of their expected starters on Saturday.
As for Montreal, Henry used a back four in that preseason encounter. He had since preferred a back five in most of the Impact's matches, but shifted again to a 4-3-3 in the 1-0 win over D.C.
"We feel better and better day after day because we work a lot," Fanni said. "We talk a lot with the coach and video and also on the pitch. We work a lot to find the best way to find the balance, to keep the ball and also attacking and be good defensively. That’s why we are very happy for the last game we didn’t concede a goal but we want to play more attacking and be more dangerous and that’s why every day we work on that. But we are happy to find the balance. Day by day it’s better."
The Impact have scored four goals over their three tournament games, and are still waiting on former Barcelona attacker Bojan to get his tournament going. The creative attacker insists he's not worried.
"In football there’s always pressure but the pressure is what you put on yourself," Bojan said. "I know what I’m doing and what I need to do to do better. And I’m confident about that.”