MONTREAL – When your team’s direct opponents in the playoff race have at least two games in hand, a Wednesday MLS tripleheader becomes that much more of an event than it already is.
“I had a match center at my house, in the living room, where I had all three games on at the same time,” Montreal boss Jesse Marsch told amused reporters on Thursday morning.
Marsch was a particularly interested viewer of two of those encounters on Wednesday, with one each in Washington and Philadelphia. Wilman Conde’s late equalizer for New York against D.C. United and the Union’s heartbreakingly late loss to Columbus mean that the Impact and the Crew are now tied for sixth place in the East, two points behind D.C. and Chicago.
There are two sides to that story. Sure, those three games that Columbus have in hand on the Impact give them more opportunities to pick up valuable points. But they also mean that the schedule is, to say the least, unkind with the playoffs approaching.
“They’ve got to figure out how they’re going to manage minutes, injuries,” Marsch said. “We'll see how, physically, they come out of [Wednesday night]. We've been there, so it's not like we feel sorry for these teams. We have to be prepared for different players and what it might look like, and address that and make sure that we have ourselves ready.”
For Columbus, this Saturday’s game against Montreal (7:30 pm ET, stream on MLS LIVE) will be the sixth of seven games scheduled in 22 days, which is not unlike the situation D.C. were facing as they made their way to Stade Saputo last weekend.
In the end, D.C. head coach Ben Olsen, thinking of the other two games in the next seven days, opted not to start the likes of Dwayne de Rosario and Chris Pontius, and the 3-0 win Montreal picked up then was achieved with relative ease.
The risk the Impact could run by believing the Crew could take such a gamble is too big for Marsch not to notice it.
“We thought that D.C. would have heavy legs, and the first 25 minutes, they were on top of the game and we looked like the team that had played a bunch of games,” Marsch admitted. “It can work both ways.”