MONTREAL - With the Montreal Impact coming off two consecutive losses away to the Columbus Crew and the Chicago Fire, the team’s playoff hopes hang by a thread and to have any chance of making the postseason, they’ll need to start by beating Sporting Kansas City at Saputo Stadium on Saturday.
The Impact have been stellar at home (11-2-2) and a win against Sporting would give them a seventh consecutive win on home soil. But if Wednesday’s 2-0 win against New York is any indication, Sporting will not be easy to overcome. They were also the last team to beat the Impact at home (3-1 on July 4th).
Impact captain Davy Arnaud, who played in Kansas City for ten seasons, explained to the Montreal media on Friday that Sporting’s biggest strength is its physicality and they have every incentive to want to obtain three points on Saturday with the team chasing the MLS Supporters Shield.
“That’s what makes them who they are, that’s what makes them good: they pressure teams for 90 minutes, physically they’re very good and they can wear you down,” said Arnaud. Even though they’ve played a couple games, I don’t expect anything less than the same they showed recently. They want to obviously get first place in the conference and try and win the supporters shield. I think that’s kind of their goal and they want to come in here and get a result”.
Head coach Jesse Marsch doesn’t feel that having to play midweek will affect Sporting’s performance on Saturday either.
“They’ve had success on the road because they come and they press, they don’t just sit back,” Marsch explained. “They played on Wednesday, but they’re an athletically gifted team, they’re a strong team and we expect them to come here tomorrow and push the game and press us. We’re ready to deal with that”.
With Nelson Rivas picking up yet another knee injury in training this week, Matteo Ferrari is expected to slide into the center alongside Alessandro Nesta, with Jeb Brovsky taking up the left fullback position. Hassoun Camara is expected to retain his place at right fullback.
The Impact have had to change its defensive line on so many occasions this season and so Marsch doesn’t think that having to change the back four once again on Saturday will have a negative effect on his team.
“If you go through the season, there’s been so many different backlines and so many different changes and the group has done well with that change,” said Marsch. "When each guy stepped in they understood what the role is and have done a good job and I know that these four will do well”.
After being out of action for a month with a hamstring injury, Justin Mapp will also be making his return to the Impact lineup in the place of Sanna Nyassi on the left hand side of midfield, but he doesn’t expect to play the full 90 minutes.
"[I] feel good,” said Mapp. “[I] Don’t know about 90 minutes, [I have] been out for a while and only [got] a handful of practices, but [it’s a] deep team and there’s plenty of guys that can come in if I do get fatigued.
“Hopefully with them having played Wednesday we can pressure them from the beginning and hopefully make it hard for them”.
Nick Sabetti covers the Montreal Impact for Goal.com Canada.