Play-off football, at least this season remains a one-shot for the Montreal Impact. Not impossible, but highly unlikely.
To achieve a fundamental target set at the commencement of the season, Montreal must win their last two games at Stade Saputo, beginning this afternoon against Atlanta United, hope that New England Revolution pick up less than 2 points in their two remaining fixtures, and that Chicago Fire fail to win each of theirs.
Should the Revs win this afternoon at home to New York City FC, it’s all up, no matter what happens at Stade Saputo.
Today’s visitors to Montreal, Atlanta United, have enjoyed good fortune against the Impact since losing the first MLS meeting between the sides. The Five Stripes have won the last four, although three have been at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Earlier on this season, an understrength Impact (they even travelled light, one player short of a the regulatory 18-man squad), almost pulled off a surprise in Atlanta before Justin Meram proved the match-winner with a quality 83rd min strike for the hosts.
Meram had previously given Atlanta the lead in the game, but the Impact equalized through Zakaria Diallo, his last-ever goal for the club, in the 50th minute.
The former Columbus Crew player will be on the Impact’s watch-list this afternoon.
Atlanta and MLS 2018 top-scorer, Josef Martinez is unlikely to take part for Atlanta this evening after picking up a leg injury in the recent game against San Jose, when colliding with team-mate and namesake, Pity Martinez.
Without the former Martinez, Atlanta went down to a harrowing 1-4 defeat at New York City FC, mid-week, their third reverse in the last six. United are safely in the Play-off zone, and should have already done enough to secure a home tie when post-season begins.
Montreal have shown poor MLS form recently, winning one and losing four of their last five. However, buoyed by their success in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday and the boost of having a full, fit and healthy squad available, they will go into this one high on confidence.
Bojan was exquisite in the second-leg against Toronto, and the prospect of the Spaniard integrating up front with Piatti, is an enticing one. Saphir Taider also returns to the squad, following Canadian Championship suspension and Wilmer Cabrera now has the right kind of selection problem. It’s more about who to leave out, rather than who to slot in, as the competition for places hots up.
Clement Diop, after impressing in the latter stages of the Canadian Championship run, may also make his first-ever MLS appearance for the Impact, Evan Bush having looked somewhat off-colour in recent outings.
Line-ups (projected) -
IMFC - Diop - Sagna, Cabrera, Raitala, Lovitz - Piette, Shome, Taider - Lappalainen, Piatti, Bojan
Atlanta - Guzan - Escobar, Robinson, Gonzalez Pirez - Gressel, Nagbe, Larentowicz, Meram - P Martinez, Vazquez, Hyndman.
Match Officials -
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Assistant Referees: Cory Richardson, Gianni Facchini
4th Official: Fotis Bazakos
VAR: Geoff Gamble