Make no mistake, the fixture list has thrown up a gem at Stade Saputo tomorrow evening, a little strange, when you think it’s a meeting of two under-performing sides. But that’s what can happen with play-off football, or more accurately the race to secure it.
DC may be happy at the end of the 90 minutes to avoid defeat, the Impact will be disappointed not to win, for if they do they’ll sit a point above the Black & Red with the same number of games played. And once again, the Montrealers will be on the right side of the play-off line ..... at the right time of the season. They could actually climb to a lofty 5th, should New England fail to defeat Toronto FC in a match that runs simultaneously.
DC in recent weeks have been in free-fall, their form a bit like that of tomorrow evening’s hosts, but the Impact have the boost of victory in their most recent outing. DC’s latest setback was the news last week that Wayne Rooney had incurred an additional one-match suspension following his recent red card against the Red Bulls. This rules him out of tomorrow night’s Stade Saputo show-down.
The men from the US capital look a different side without the former Manchester United and England striker in their ranks. In the four games Rooney has missed this season, DC has won only one, at home to the Galaxy, although recent form with him in the team has not been impressive either. Perhaps Rooney’s decision to return to his homeland has blunted his edge.
A 2-1 home win over LA Galaxy on August 12, is United’s only win in the last seven games, five of which have been lost.
Montreal will never have a better chance to create a launchpad for securing post-season football. The only thing that’s missing right now is Piatti. With the Argentinian on board the positives significantly increase, but it’s a scenario that must be dismissed such are the player’s injury woes.
Confidence will have been lifted by the 2-1 victory over Vancouver, however I expect to see nervy displays from both sides tomorrow evening, given all that’s at stake. It may well be whichever side makes the least errors, wins the game and it promises to be a real nail-biter for those watching from the stands.
A result either way will not exactly sound the death knell for the other’s play-off chances, but it is sure to go a long way towards the final determination.
Expect the Impact to line-up exactly as they did midweek against Vancouver It’s highly unlikely that Rod Fanni will yet be deemed at the level to start, so Raitala and Camacho will need to display the same character as against the Whitecaps. Both carried injuries into the game and both completed a dogged and determined 90 mins successfully. Neither will cast a thought during their preparation, but subconsciously they’ll both be happy about Rooney’s absence.
The one change that may occur in the Impact line-up could be on the right side of the midfield four. While another Orji Okwonkwo somersault would delight, the Nigerian’s form has dipped in recent games and you wonder of he’s operating at 100%. Tabla could therefore come into the reckoning, although should Wilmer Cabrera feel he needs to add some defensive balance to his unit, Clement Bayiha is the more disciplined option.
Even without Rooney, there remains potential match-winners in the DC camp. One time Impact favourite, Felipe Martins is likely to start as part of a five man midfield for DC, with play-maker Luciano Acosta and wide man Arriola providing the main threat and service to recent signing Ola Kamara, now back in MLS following a spell in China.
Another former Impact man that could see game time is Quincy Amarikwa who spent a few months at Stade Saputo last season. Amarikwa is likely to start on the bench.
Around the same time last year, DC United were the side putting a run together towards play-off qualification on the back of an end of season schedule, heavily laden with home games (which included a 5-0 drubbing of the Impact).
Now the side with the sequence of home games is Montreal, and they’ll be hoping to mirror DC’s run of last season. The reflection doesn’t have to extend to a 5-0 revenge mission tomorrow night. A win of any kind will do to set momentum.
Line-Ups (projected) -
IMFC - Bush - Sagna, Camacho, Raitala, Lovitz - Bayiha, Taider, Piette, Lapalainen - Bojan, Urruti.
DC United - Hamid - Jara, Brilliant, Birnbaum, Mora - Arriola, Felipe, Acosta, Moreno, Segura - Kamara
Match Officials -
Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Jeremy Kieso
4th Official: Elvis Osmanovic
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr