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The Montreal Impact and the Playoff Picture: 14 Games To Go

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Outside looking in since the beginning of the season, the Montreal Impact and MLS playoffs are still used in the same sentence. Without a long streak of victories, it was always hard to pinpoint the club's capacity to take over the 4th or the 5th spot in the Eastern Conference. It does feel a sense of urgency with important wins at the right time to get back to the playoff race but then falters with a string of losses: 1 step forward, 2 steps back?

For the 2012 MLS season making the playoffs goes as follow:

Ten teams, the top five in points from each conference at the end of the regular season, qualify for the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs. The fourth and fifth place teams in each conference will play a single knockout game, the winner of which will advance to the Conference Semifinals and face the first place team in the conference.

Magic Number: 50 points?

We will look at the 2011 MLS season and how many points were needed to be fourth and fifth in the Eastern conference

The Montreal Impact already tallied 21 points so assuming that 50 points get you the golden ticket, the team might need a 9-2-3 record to make it to the playoffs. With not as much pressure as the Philadelphia Union or Toronto FC (miracle run needed), the Impact will probably to have one of the top forms in results and wins in MLS.

What might be even more disappointing is the many points left behind during the season against teams that did not take the Impact seriously or just under-estimated them. You can be nostalgic and think of the game against Colorado or more recently against Sporting Kansas City.

Outside number crunching and such, there are positive things to look for on the field:
  • Hassoun Camara and Shavar Thomas holding the fort in the absence of Matteo Ferrari and Nelson Rivas
  • Alessandro Nesta joining the squad as he will definitely make the team better
  • The midfield still continued to be strong in the absence of Felipe Martins and Davy Arnaud, due to suspensions.
  • And finally, Marco Di Vaio really finding his legs and motivation very quickly and he hasn't scored yet so imagine when he starts his goal-o-meter (and he will)

Related: Montreal 2 - Columbus 1: Character, Grit & Determination | Follow Mount Royal Soccer on Twitter

The July Marathon:

7 games in 30 days: 6 MLS games and 1 international friendly vs Olympique Lyonnais.

Having beaten a direct competitor (the Columbus Crew) , every win counts for almost 9 points knowing that 13 out of 14 games are against Eastern Conference teams. Jesse Marsch said it himself in the latest post-game conference that this win (vs the Crew) might be the spark they needed to go on a roll. Also bench management will be even more important with so many games in such short time. How Jesse Marsch and his staff will handle that aspect of the game will be one of keys to good form. The Impact has had Monday and Tuesday off since the game vs the Crew, a recognition of how rest is important in this July marathon.

Playing the Philadelphia Union and the New England Revolution next, the importance of not letting points slip away is a rule of thumb against 2 teams filled with youth and potential. The Union has had a sequence of L-W-L-W-W in its last 5 games and the Revolution has not lost once in its last 5 games, W-T-T-T-W.

As soon as I saw the quality of this team on the field and what they could produce as an expansion team, it was clear that the Montreal Impact were going to be alive by July-August. This assumption flourished even more with an important tactical change from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 that seems to fully utilize every member of the squad.

The possibility of making the playoffs is still there and achieving that goal will be a true testament to the commitment to excellence of the organisation, the club , the team and the fans. Making it or not shouldn't be a fatality by itself as it's still important to develop an identity and philosophy that will stand the test of time.