The Montreal Impact will kick off their second ever MLS playoff appearance against Toronto FC this Thursday night at Stade Saputo. In what has been an emotional season for the Impact with the firing of a head coach, the signing of Didier Drogba and Johan Venegas, and the qualification in the CONCACAF Champions League Final; it all comes down to ninety minutes against Canadian rivals TFC.
How did the Bleu-Blanc-Noir get to the playoffs
The Montreal Impact finished the 2015 season with a record of 15W-13L-6D , accumulating a total of 51 points. Thanks to a 2-1 win over Toronto FC on Sunday, the Impact clinch home field advantage for the knockout playoff game against the same Reds. that game will be played on Thursday night at 7 pm EST at Stade Saputo.
What's the outlook?
Things are looking up for the Impact going into Thursday nights matchup. With a solid home record (11-4-2) and moral at perhaps an all time high at the club TFC will have their work cut out for them if they want to walk away from their first ever playoff game with a victory. Montreal is coming into the match on a three match winning streak while TFC has lost two in a row. The Impact are dealing with a number of injuries, but this is nothing new to a team that has had to deal with injuries all season long.
Perhaps the biggest injury blow going into the playoffs is the injury to 2014 Montreal Impact player of the season Andres Romero. Although the Argentine can be streaky, he is certainly a weapon the Impact will miss for the playoff run. With discipline problems dogging Montreal all season, it is imperative the Bleu-Blanc-Noir 'keep their heads' if they want to come out of the match on Thursday with a victory.
The Impact will take on Toronto FC this Thursday, a team they have not fared particularliy well against this season. Toronto comes into the match on Thursday with a 15-15-4 record over the course of the season, and finished in the sixth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. TFC boasts the likes of MLS Golden Boot winner, Giovinco as well as American international stars such as Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.
On the team that owns three of the top ten highest paid players in MLS TFC have a road record of 4-10-3 come into the game on Thursday having dropped their last two matches. Although TFC has a lot of firepower up front their back line has plagued them all season long and will need to step up if they hope to knock off Montreal.
How they got here:
It has been a rollercoaster season for the Montreal Impact. The team started their season at the end of February against Pachuca as part of the CONCACAF Champions League. With the Impact making it to the final of that competition there were a number of games that were re-scheduled by MLS in order to facilitate the Impact. The issue of struggling on the road (not the only MLS team with this problem) for the second straight season, Montreal found themselves hovering around the 'red line' for the majority of the season.
With a severe dip in form in August, Head Coach Frank Klopas was fired making way for Mauro Biello to take the reigns with the added bonus of having new designated player signing Didier Drogba at his disposal. With the schedule crunch in September and October, the Impact finished the season as the hottest team in MLS and defeated TFC on the final day of the season to clinch home-field advantage in the knockout round of the playoffs.
Record this season between teams:
The Impact have played TFC five times so far this season over the course of two Canadian Championship and three MLS regular season matches. The Impact were able to squeak past TFC on away goals in the Canadian Championship. The Impact dropped two of the three matches against Toronto in the regular season campaign, both loses coming at BMO Field.
Why the Montreal Impact has the edge:
Stade Saputo. The Montreal Impact have been very solid over the course of the season (yes even before Drogba). The Impact finished the season with an 11-4-2 record at home including winning both games against TFC, one in the Canadian Championship (1-0) and one in the regular season (2-1). Oh yeah...and having Didier Drogba helps as well.
Why Toronto FC has the edge:
Toronto FC have spent a lot of money over the last two seasons and brought in many skilled players. In a one game playoff the likes of Giovinco, Bradley or Altidore have the ability to take over the game. Montreal will have to find a way to shut down Altidore who has scored four goals over the course of the five meetings this season.
Why will the Impact win MLS Cup:
Depth. If you look at the 2015 version of the Montreal Impact it is by far the deepest team they have put together. Even with the likes of Romero, Mapp, and Bekker out injured they still have the ability to field a very good midfield. If Ciman or Cabrera goes down they have the ability to bring in Camara or Lefèvre.
Why will the Impact fall short:
Discipline. The Impact have struggled with discipline over the course of the 2015 MLS campaign. In the playoffs a red card can be the kiss of death. If Ciman, Oyongo, Donadel or Venegas gets into trouble with the officials the Impact might not last long in the 2015 edition of the playoffs.