MONTREAL – Being called “favorites” in MLS isn’t something the Montreal Impact are used to.
Last season, Montreal went into 26.5 percent of their games (9 out of 34) having tallied more points than their opponents. Yet the favorites tag didn't make much of a difference: The Impact picked up 11 out of a possible 27 points from those contests.
This time around, the Impact’s three wins in three games and their next opponents’ points tallies effectively guarantee that Marco Schällibaum’s side will be, statistically-speaking, favorites coming into the next two games, and tricky ones at that: at home against the New York Red Bulls this Saturday (4:30 pm ET, MLS Live) and away at Sporting Kansas City the following weekend.
Understandably, the Montreal coaching staff prefers to curb expectations.
“I don’t think we’re at a point where we’re the favorites," assistant coach Mauro Biello said. "Playing against New York, they’re a good team on paper. They’re a team that should be vying for MLS Cup, for the playoffs. From our perspective, we have to be ready to face a team like New York."
“Yes, we do have nine points. Yes, things are going well for us. They’re going through tougher times. But every guy here, every coach, every staff member, we know that it's going to be a very difficult game against New York and that we need to be ready.”
The players, for their part, are coping well with this novel situation, for they have already been setting high expectations for themselves since last season. The difference this year is that external expectations have gone up a notch.
“Maybe now, going into the next games, the other teams might perceive us as a tougher opponent and not take us too lightly,” Collen Warner told MLSsoccer.com. “I felt a few times, last year, it was almost easy for us to come out and get on top of other teams because they’d take us lightly.”
Added team captain Davy Arnaud: “I think we need to realize what makes us good. Regardless of ‘favorite,’ ‘won three in a row’ or ‘lost three in a row,’ our approach can’t change no matter what, with other people saying who the favorites are and all that other stuff.”