Bottom-of-the-table Montreal (1-4-6) welcomes Major League Soccer's hottest team, the streaking New England Revolution, to Saputo Stadium on Saturday, and the encounter comes at a bad time for the Impact.
Montreal's season-long woes are seemingly without remedy. The team is racking up the league-lows: they have seven points from 11 games, own a minus-13 goal differential, and have scored just four times on home soil.
The Revolution (7-2-3), meanwhile, are riding a five-game win streak, their longest since 2005. A victory against the Impact would tie the club record for most consecutive wins. Sitting pretty atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Revs are four points clear of second-place Sporting KC with a game in hand.
The team is also unbeaten in its last seven games, outscoring its opponents 16-5 over that stretch. New England scored five goals in two of its last three contests.
But the red-hot Revs aren't getting complacent. Midfielder Chris Tierney knows the Impact's unfavourable position at the bottom of the standings could make them more dangerous.
"Montreal, they're a good team. It's the same team that put together a really solid run last year," he told the team's website from Foxborough, Mass., on Thursday. "They've got plenty of dangerous players and we're going to have to go to their place, which is a tough place to play."
Tierney is one of eight Revolution players to have scored during the club's five-game winning stretch. He scored his first goal of the season in New England's 5-3 road romp over Philadelphia on May 17.
"We're not expecting to go there and win 5-0," he said of Saturday's matchup. "It's going to be a tough game for us and we're going to have to have our best stuff to come out with a result."
And some of New England's best stuff during the streak is coming courtesy of two young forwards.
Diego Fagundez, 19, and rookie Patrick Mullins, 22, have combined for eight goals and three assists in the last five games. In contrast, the entire Impact squad have only scored nine times during the season.
"Mullins and I are working very well with each other," Uruguayan-born Fagundez told the team's website last weekend. "We are moving off the ball well and are making good runs. As long as we keep playing like this, more goals will come."
In New England's last contest, Fagundez scored the winner in the 77th minute of a 2-1 home victory over D.C. United. Mullins netted the opening goal and became only the second rookie in MLS history to score in four consecutive games.
"(Mullins) has a great awareness of where he needs to be, where the ball is," Revolution coach Jay Heaps told reporters after that game. "You have to have a knack for it. He's done it his whole life and he's just now finding he's good enough to do it at this level."
The rookie will look to take advantage of a Montreal back-line that concedes a league-worst two goals per game, and that gave up four on the road to the Colorado Rapids in their last MLS outing.
The defensive four might get a boost from Matteo Ferrari's return from injury. Ferrari injured his calf in a pre-game warmup last month, and hasn't played since Apr. 26. His return is still questionable for Saturday.
Montreal will also be looking to build on a solid mid-week performance on the road versus Toronto FC in the Amway Canadian Championship final. Justin Mapp scored a beautiful left-footed strike from just outside the 18-yard box in the 73rd minute to give the Impact a 1-1 draw and a much-need away goal.
"That's the kind of thing that can change the season really quickly," said defender Heath Pearce from Montreal on Tuesday, before the cup tie. "It can bring a whole other dynamic to what's been a difficult season so far. We've been facing adversity the whole season, from the start."
The return leg of the Canadian Championship goes June 4 at Saputo Stadium, where the Impact will look to defend their Voyageurs Cup, and claim the title for the third time. Aggregate score will determine who will represent Canada in the next CONCACAF Champions League.
Notes: Striker Jack McInerney has scored four times against New England in nine career appearances, including three game winners in 2012 and 2013. … New England has never lost at Saputo Stadium (2-0). … The Revs are unbeaten when scoring first (6-0) and when leading at halftime (3-0). … Montreal's recent acquisition Issey Nakajima-Farran will likely make his Saputo Stadium debut versus the Revs. … The Impact and Revolution will face off twice more this season.