SPORTS

Impact look to end winless run, strengthen playoff position against Revolution

10/11/2013 04:56 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
MONTREAL - It's crunch time for the Montreal Impact.

Their match Saturday afternoon against the New England Revolution is not technically a must-win game, but a victory would go a long way to securing a playoff spot and holding off teams like Philadelphia and Chicago that are hot on their tail.

"Everyone's playing like it's a final," midfielder Patrice Bernier said this week. "Everyone wants to make the playoffs and is fighting for a spot.

"I see in the practices that everyone is aware of the importance of these games and everyone will be ready. We hope we have a big crowd and put on a good show and get the three points."

A four-game winless run has the Impact (13-10-7) clinging to fourth place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference with four games left in the regular season. A win would at least eliminate the seventh-place Revolution (11-11-9) from the group of teams that still have a chance to overtake them.

And it may boost the confidence of a team that has sagged badly in the second half of the season after a 9-3-2 start.

At that time, finishing first seemed a realistic goal, but since blowing a pair of leads in a 4-3 loss to Colorado at home on June 29 they have gone 4-7-5.

Their last win was a 4-2 decision at New England on Sept. 8, but they got help when Revs goalie Matt Reis was sent off after only five minutes. Bernier scored twice from the penalty spot.

Since then, the Impact have a draw and three losses, including a 1-0 decision last week in Houston.

"We had a big first half but in the second half it's been more difficult because the other teams have come up because they got better and they are more prepared for us," said forward Marco Di Vaio. "But we have another chance. It's still in our hands. It depends on us."

If they get hot this month, the Impact still have a shot at finishing in the top three. They are two points behind Houston, six behind Kansas City and seven behind New York, but have two games in hand on each of those teams. The top five in each conference make the playoffs.

There will be shuffling on the back line against New England.

Alessandro Nesta returns after missing two games with a groin problem to rejoin Matteo Ferrari in the central defence.

But both fullbacks will be out, as Hassoun Camara serves a one-game ban for accumulating five yellow cards and Jeb Brovsky misses the first of what they hope will only be three games with a broken toe.

Coach Marco Schallibaum said Maxim Tissot would take over Brovsky's spot at left back. The Gatineau, Que., native has looked sharp in recent games as a left midfielder, scoring the tying goal in Chicago two weeks ago.

"He's going to play," Schallibaum said. "We don't have many solutions, but he's earned it with good play as a substitute.

"I also hope he helps us offensively with his left good left foot. That will be an important weapon for us to win the game."

Davy Arnaud may move from the midfield to right back.

Di Vaio, Bernier and midfielder Justin Mapp all were nursing minor injuries this week, but may be ready to play, either as starters or off the bench. Bernier missed the last game with a hip ailment.

The Revolution, coming off a 2-2 draw with New York, cannot afford any losses in their three remaining games.

"It's a huge game," coach Jay Heap told the club's website. "Unfortunately, we've left points on the table and now we're in a situation where we have to go to Montreal and get points."

His club will be without one of it's top attacking players, Jerry Bengtson, who is with Honduras for some World Cup qualifiers.

New England's attack is led by young forward Diego Fagundez, who has four goals in his last six games and 12 for the season.

After New England, the Impact play Wednesday night in Los Angeles, then return home to face Philadelphia. They end the season Oct. 26 in Toronto.

"There's always been pressure, it's just that it will keep piling up until we put ourselves in a safe position, where we can actually say we're in the playoffs," said Bernier. "This is a big game for us to keep our position or move up.

"The other team knows the implications for them. It's good pressure. These are the games you want to play. I want to play games that matter."

The Los Angeles game was originally scheduled for April 6, but the Impact agreed to postpone it so the Galaxy could prepare for a CONCACAF Champions League match.

Mapp was fined an undisclosed amount by MLS on Friday for simulating a foul in the 40th minute of last week's game.

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