MONTREAL—It has been seven weeks since Montreal Impact head coach Mauro Biello told his players that "we're not that good of a team" after a 4-1 loss to Orlando City at Stade Saputo on September 7.
Biello's message, essentially that Montreal couldn't just show up and expect to win games on talent alone, struck a chord with his players.
"He was right," said Impact forward Dominic Oduro before practice Wednesday at the Centre Nutrilait training facility. "At that moment, we weren't good enough."
And they took heed.
"It kind of told us to be on our toes, obviously, and [that] your spot is not safe," Oduro said. "And I think that's exactly what happened, everybody started grinding, and now we're in the playoffs and we're here."
The here and now for Montreal is an Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round game against D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Thursday (7:30pm ET; UniMás | TSN, RDS in Canada).
Before the Impact left for Washington, Biello reflected on that once-harsh assessment of the team.
"You can't just think you're going to step on the field and think everything's going to be OK and you're going to win the game," he said. "Along with quality there needs to be the fight, and there needs to be the mindset, and there needs to be everything else to give you a chance to win the game because every team in this league is equal. That's the way this team is built.
"There's not one team that is head and shoulders above everybody else, it's everybody's got a chance to win and it's just about now being ready, and to fight, and to bring the quality that you have collectively."
Montreal didn't set exactly set the league on fire after Biello's challenging comments. In fact, the Impact tied Philadelphia in its next game before losing consecutive matches to New England and at the New York Red Bulls.
But during a stretch of three games in eight days, Montreal followed up a midweek win against San Jose at home by avenging its loss to Orlando with a 1-0 road victory on October 2, which shored up the Impact's playoff chances while eliminating the Lions from contention.
"I think the players, obviously there's players that know that they could do better and at the end of the day that's what you want," Biello said. "You want this team to be able to perform at the best of their ability to help this team and sometimes in the season things are hard and difficult and that's when you've got to be strong and be able to fight through that because if you're able to do in those different moments, that when it reappears, those moments you're ready for them."
And now that the Impact has its second straight opportunity to make some noise in the playoffs, Oduro showed that Biello's message still resonates.
"Listen I'll say this, forget about the 34 games that we've played throughout the season, this is a whole different ballgame," Oduro said. "We all know how playoffs is: it's feisty, you're hungry. I always say the refs don't even make certain calls because they know what is at stake. So, we made the playoffs – that is key for us – and now we just throw everything out on the table and just go out there and play a different game.
"And by a different game, I'm not saying we shouldn't go out there and play our formation, but we have to go out there and just have that mentality, this is do, or die – you go home. Just be smart. Go there, give it all you've got, and let the result just go the way you want it to."