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Impact - Only a Win Will Do ...

Montreal desperate to keep MLS season alive.

MLS: Montreal Impact at FC Cincinnati
Orji Okwonkwo heads home Montreal’s goal in the 1-2 defeat at Nippert Stadium earlier this season.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

FC Cincinnati come to Montreal for the first time in their fledging MLS existence hoping to reverse a trend that’s seen them pick up only one point and concede 27 goals in their last 9 games. They are firmly rooted to the basement in Supporters’ Shield standings.

The Impact has fared only slightly better over their last nine, securing two wins, and conceding 22 times.

Looks like a goal-fest then? Well ... not if Wilmer Cabrera can help it. The Impact’s new Colombian coach has been using the international break to work the training ground with his players. It’s clear his side need to discover the formula to prevent conceding bad goals cheaply. It’s been a negative feature of the season after an initial bright run of games on the road had increased early season optimism.

“When you are shorter than most of your opponents then you know that they will be confident,” Cabrera said of Montreal’s defending. “So we need to balance somehow and we need to work so that we protect each other and create more confidence in our players.”

MLS: D.C. United at Montreal Impact
Wilmer Cabrera - has been working his players hard in defence over the break.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Most Montreal fans however will take any kind of win today. There is an air of desperation about Stade Saputo and a real fear that play-off soccer will be missed for the third season in succession. So while conceding goals is an inherent flaw that must be addressed, most will settle for conceding two or three today, so long as their side manages a higher tally.

It’s all about the three points. It barely matters how they’re won, keeping the season alive is very much the priority.

Montreal will be helped by the fact that a trio of key players have had an additional couple of weeks to improve fitness and settle, thanks to the international break. Bojan Krkic, Rod Fanni and Ballou Tabla will all be part of a squad this evening, which should be suitably fired-up for this one.

There are encouraging noises emerging from the camp too, on Nacho Piatti, who looks to be nearing fitness once again. Having Piatti available, even from a seat on the bench will give both squad and supporters a lift.

Attention will be frequently deflected away from the action this evening as fans finger their devices for updates from Orlando (v New England), where anything other than an away win (coupled with an Impact victory) will see Montreal back above the play-off line.

MLS: Montreal Impact at FC Cincinnati
Shome (28) and Ulloa battle for possession in the first meeting of the sides at Nippert Stadium earlier this season. FCC won 2-1, one of only five MLS victories this season.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult to understand the challenge that will come from this evening’s visitors. The Orange & Blue have had such a torrid season they would be forgiven for wanting it to end sooner rather than later.

Now into their third head coach, Ron Jans, a former player and manager with much Eredivisie experience, the 60-year-old will be seeking to establish an identity to build upon for next season. You would also expect that some players at Cincinnati will be aware they are playing for their MLS futures.

Also with little else to play for in the shape of points but pride, you wonder how Cincinnati can perform with the pressure off, although recent results suggest this not to be a reason for Orange & Blue optimism.

Whichever way you choose to analyze this evening’s contest, the only result beneficial to either side is a home win. Should Montreal Impact not achieve this, they’ll effectively kiss good-bye to the target of post-season soccer, that for too long now, has been drifting further into the distance.

Line-Ups (projected) -

IMFC - Bush - Sagna, Raitala, Fanni, Lovitz - Okwonkwo, Piette, Tider, Lappalainen - Bojan, Urruti.

Cincinnati - Tyton - Deplagne, Hagglund, Garza, Gutman - Alashe, Stanko, Amaya - Gyau, Lamah, Mattocks.

Match Officials -

Referee - Ramy Touchan
Asst Refs - Brian Dunn, CJ Morgante
4th Official - Armando Villareal
VAR - David Barrie