Unless the Impact win this evening when they take on high-riding Orlando City at Red Bull Arena, matters will go down to Decision-Day next weekend at DC United.
Even three points may not be enough, however should they claim only their third win in twelve matches this evening and either one of Inter-Miami or DC United fail to collect all three points, they’ll be looking at post-season soccer for the first time since 2016.
Ironically as far as Inter-Miami is concerned, it’s Montreal’s bitter rivals Toronto FC that can do them a huge favour when the pair face-off at East Hartford.
As for DC United, they’ve come alive since the departure of long-time coach, Ben Olsen, winning their last three on the trot, but you feel they must win at New England this evening to keep play-off hopes burning.
Chicago are still alive too of course, and they too face a difficult away fixture at Minnesota United who must win if they are to achieve a top four place in the West.
Montreal’s form is not good going into this evening’s encounter. In nine of the last thirteen games, they have conceded the first goal. On only one of those nine have they avoided defeat, a 2-2 draw against Chicago in New Jersey.
Stretching back to last season they’ve lost all nineteen of the league games in which they trailed at half-time. You wonder indeed what these last two facts say about the team’s character and ability to dig themselves out of a hole.
To add balance it’s fair to point out the challenges facing Canadian clubs this season, although resource-happy Toronto FC have dealt with the adversity so well they could end up being the top team in the Eastern Conference.
It’s been a hugely lopsided and nonsensical season, yet we all need to be grateful there was any football at all. It must be hoped should Covid-19 remain with us into the new year, that governments and north American sports governing bodies can find a better solution than what we’ve witnessed this season.
Orlando City come into this one intent on holding onto a top four place, and perhaps only a victory can ensure that. They’ve already played Montreal off the park earlier this season at MLS-is-Back, despite only winning by the slenderest of margins, and in Nani and Chris Mueller have two players that pose possibly the greatest threat to the Impact this evening.
Thierry Henry reflected on Orlando’s relatively modest record on the road, however balanced that by saying his own team had only won once at Red Bull Arena since taking up residence...
“At the end of the day we are not looking at statistics like that. We’re trying to find a way to defeat a difficult team to beat.
“The way I see, for us, we are not at home, however people want to talk about it. It is an away game for us and it is an away game for them.
“So we are trying to win a ball game.”
Montreal’s head coach is of course correct insofar as no football match has ever been won on paper, possibly the most comforting thought Montreal fans can take into this evening.
Bojan, who’s been somewhat quieter in his last two games than we’ve seen lately, claims the squad remains confident, although he’d be unlikely to say anything to the contrary with his team heading into such a critical game.
“The confidence is there. I think we have [confidence] in the games, we just need the results. And Sunday, we know it’s an important game and what the win can do for us, so we believe that we can win and we have confidence in that.”
In six games between the clubs in Montreal, the Impact have won three and Orlando two, with one match ending all square. As Henry says, tonight is more a neutral venue than a home game, but he still needs to find a way to overcome a side transformed by coach Oscar Pareja, if everything’s not going to rest on the regular season’s final day.
Projected Line-ups -
IMFC - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Binks, Waterman, Raitala - Wanyama, Piette, Sejdic, Maciel - Bojan, Quioto.
OCSC - Gallese - Miller, Jansson, Carlos, Ruan - Nani, Mendez, Junior Urso, Mueller - Akindele, Dike
Match Officials -
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Asst Refs: Brian Dunn, Chris Elliott
4th Official: Luis Arroyo
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez