The last time the Impact went to Audi Field seeking points to consolidate a run for play-offs turned out to be a humbling experience.
Then as now the men from the US capital were enjoying a late season resurgence. But they also had Wayne Rooney.
Rooney, Acosta and Arriola destroyed the Impact that day in a 5-0 victory which could have been worse and was Montreal’s record MLS defeat at the time.
There’s no Rooney tomorrow of course, Acosta has long departed south but Arriola, after missing the season, is included for the first time after injury. How match fit he is remains to be seen, his inclusion possibly designed to lift a squad deflated following a painful 3-4 defeat at New England.
We keep hearing that confidence remains high in the Montreal camp, although you wonder how this can be after a depressing run of form. The highlight amongst it all was undoubtedly the 2-1 win at Columbus, but there’s been too many low points to suggest any feeling of confidence is but a veil of deception.
Thierry Henry and his coaching staff must however send their troops out positive and motivated. It’s one game. Win it and you’re into the realm of post-season football, Draw or lose and you’re probably not.
If nothing else this season, Montreal has shown they can beat the best in their own backyard, with away victories over Toronto FC and Columbus. But it’s when the expectancy level has been high that they’ve faltered, undermined so many times by ridiculous individual errors.
They will need to be foot perfect tomorrow and take the game to their hosts, rejuvenated since Chad Ashton replaced long-serving Ben Olsen, under whom they’d struggled this season.
Impact fans will be hoping their team is the one which breaks the deadlock in a game which promises to be tight and tense and could be decided by whichever side makes the least mistakes. In their last 12 games, opponents have scored first 8 times, and have gone on to win in 7 of those. Nor has Montreal managed to avoid defeat in any of the last 19 MLS matches in which they’ve trailed at the break. Half-time deficits serve up only ominous prospects.
Thierry Henry has often tinkered with his line-up this season, sometimes forced through player unavailability, sometimes not. It can be difficult to predict how he will approach this one. Whether he opts for 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, Bojan and Quioto are certain to be up top and he’ll be expecting plenty in an attacking sense from the energetic Brault-Guillard on the right and the less reliable Corrales on the left flank.
Ola Kamara for DC United is a player who has hurt the Impact on a couple of occasions and while the Norwegian had three healthy and productive seasons in MLS prior to a spell in China in 2019, the goals have somewhat dried up since.
It’s the second meeting of the season for the teams. Montreal prevailed in a tight and stuttering affair in Florida during MLS-is-Back, the winner coming from recently-departed Saphir Taider.
In many ways the play-offs start tomorrow for each of these clubs, the reward for the winners a place in the play-in round proper.
Will the law of averages work in favour of the visitors who enter Decision Day on the back of five defeats in six, and deny the hosts, whose revival has seen them claim three wins in the last four.
It’s a tough one to call, a draw is probably the most logical prediction, an outcome that won’t help United and one unlikely to send Montreal to the promised land either.
But then again logic goes out the window when the game is as season-defining and ultimate as this one. If there’s parity with ten minutes remaining, watch out for fireworks, sit back and buy a ticket for the lottery.
DC United - Hamid - Fisher, Canouse, Pines, Paredes - Yow, Moreno, Asad, Flores - Reyna, Kamara
IMFC - Diop - Brault Guillard, Waterman, Binks, Raitala, Corrales - Piette, Wanyama, Sejdic 0 Bojan, Quioto
Match Officials - To be announced