MONTREAL – It’s back to (road) basics for the Montreal Impact.
Of the 10 MLS games Montreal still have to play, six require them to pack their bags and face hostile crowds, starting this Saturday night at the Philadelphia Union (7:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live). Mindful of the tight Eastern Conference standings which they currently top, the Impact are on a mission to repeat their early season road heroics, when they most notably beat both Seattle and Portland in Cascadia.
“The next two games won’t be easy, but we have to do more if we want to make the playoffs,” forward Marco Di Vaio said on Thursday. “We have to pick up points away like we did early this season. It’s very important: it might be the difference between fifth place leading to the wild card game and the top of the table sending us directly into the playoffs.”
The math is simple: over those last six away games, notching similar results to their first six – 10 out of a possible 18 road points – and maintaining their Stade Saputo form would clear Montreal’s direct path to the playoffs.
They’ll have to make the latest numbers lie, however, as they’ve since picked up one point from five outings away from home. For Di Vaio, it starts with a better mentality and approach, an assessment which assistant coach Mauro Biello, who will once again fill in for suspended head coach Marco Schälllibaum on the PPL Park sidelines, shares entirely.
“[Alessandro] Nesta once told me that, last season, ‘Even before we dressed for a [road] game, we knew we’d lost,’” Biello said. “We wanted to change that mentality, and at the beginning of this season, we believed, going on the road, that we were good enough to get a result. We’re in a situation where we have to recover that mentality.”
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Fittingly, chances are that much of the Impact’s game plan will involve keeping their cool in the opposition's half. The Union, who lost 5-1 at the New England Revolution last weekend, have yet to drop two consecutive games in MLS this season. With Montreal scoring 1.18 goals per away game on average, making the most of their chances will be key.
“It’ll be difficult and tight, especially defensively,” Biello said. “When a team gives up five goals, it works a lot on defense during the week. It’s not easy playing and winning in Philadelphia, so we’re expecting a great game.”