MONTREAL – With their fate depending on three Sunday games, the Montreal Impact players killed time any way they could.
Some decided to watch all three. Others chose not to watch, but stared at their Twitter feed all day. Another told himself he wouldn’t watch, but ended up putting the games on in the background at home.
In the end, the stress faded, but it took the New York Red Bulls’ 5-2 win over the Chicago Fire for Montreal to make the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in the club’s history and get a chance to reset the scoreboard to 0-0.
It might have been cold for training on Monday, but there were no complaints: The wind stinging the players’ cheeks means the Impact are still alive, and with a Thursday knockout game in Houston looming (8:30 pm ET; TSN/RDS in Canada, NBCSN in US), there’s no time to think about the "how" and the "why."
“I’m positive,” defender Matteo Ferrari told reporters. “Today, we spoke with the team in the locker room, and the good thing was that nobody was really happy. I think it’s a good thing because as we said, maybe we don’t [deserve] to be there, but we are. And now we’ve got to play.”
Ferrari later expanded his thought, implying that Montreal’s current form – four points out of a possible 24 to close out the regular season – just wasn’t sufficient. Head coach Marco Schällibaum agreed, albeit more measuredly, that his team didn’t deserve to hold onto third place in the Eastern Conference, which they let go of in last Saturday’s 1-0 loss in Toronto.
“It’s true that we were really good in the first half of the season, but in the end, we didn’t deserve that [third] spot,” Schällibaum said. “There’s some justice in life, and that’s why I’m still happy, when we look at the whole season, to see that we deserved that fifth spot.”
As they should, most of the players who spoke to the media on Monday referred to the first half of season as well. In a time when they can write the club’s history, they have to “come back to what we were at the beginning,” as Ferrari put it: rediscover the attitude and the way of playing that, 14 games into the season, yielded more than two points per game on average.
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Even though it took some help from the Supporters' Shield-winning Red Bulls to get a chance to do that.