MONTREAL - The Montreal Impact are looking to continue their slow climb out of Major League's Soccer cellar by avenging an embarrassing loss.
Last month, while sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference and still looking for their first win of the season, the Impact were thumped 4-0 on the road by the defending MLS champions Sporting Kansas City.
Montreal (1-3-4) has since shown signs of life with a win at home against Philadelphia, but the team still languishes in second-last place in the conference standings.
The Impact are looking to take points from first-place Kansas City (4-2-2) when the clubs meet again on Saturday afternoon at Saputo Stadium in Montreal, where the home team hasn't lost since Oct. 2013.
"Every game, it's another opportunity for us," said Impact coach Frank Klopas following the Apr. 19 loss to Sporting. "And that's how we look at it. There's nothing we can do about the past. But we can do something about what's in front of us. And that's what I tell the guys."
Klopas will be coaching his 100th MLS game on Saturday.
His team opened its 2014 campaign with a seven-game winless skid, the worst start to an Impact season in their 21-year history. The club's adversity was underscored with the four-goal loss at Sporting Park.
Montreal started that game with some promise, threatening Kansas City on a few quick counter attacks.
But Sporting exposed weaknesses in Montreal's defence as the game wore on. Striker Dom Dwyer penetrated Montreal's six-yard box with far too much ease, scoring twice from in close in the second half to cement the victory. Dwyer leads Kansas City with four goals on the season.
Sporting KC defender Seth Sinovic, who was selected by the Impact in the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft before being traded to Kansas City, thought last month's lopsided score line was not representative of how the Impact played.
"That game could have been a different story if they had put away a couple of early counter attacks," Sinovic told reporters in Kansas City on Wednesday. "We know they're dangerous. It's going to be a tough environment, but we're looking forward to the challenge."
"They have a very good team," added Sporting coach Peter Vermes after a practice in Kansas City on Thursday. "Our mentality is not to take anyone lightly. At the end of the day, we're going to be very serious about our approach going in there."
But Montreal is still struggling on both ends of the pitch. They only have one clean sheet in eight games — the 1-0 victory against the Union have the fewest golas in the league with seven.
Some of the concern for the team's low productivity falls on the shoulders of designated player Marco Di Vaio, who finished last season with 20 goals in 34 appearances.
So far this year, Di Vaio is but a shadow of his former self, having only scored once in five games. The Italian had five goals at this time last season.
Di Vaio will look to break out on Saturday against Sporting KC, a team he has never scored on in six career games.
At the other end of the MLS table, Kansas City has an Eastern Conference-best plus-5 goal differential, and has only lost twice in eight games this season — both of those coming on the road.
Besides containing Dwyer and midfielder Graham Zusi, who's tied for second in MLS with four assists, the Impact will need to find an answer to Eric Kronberg.
The Sporting keeper has been in fine form since the start of the season. Kronberg leads the league with four shutouts and a paltry 0.75 goals-against-average. He stopped both shots directed at him by Di Vaio and Collen Warner at Sporting Park in April.
"We have a tough game on Saturday against Kansas City," said Impact captain Patrice Bernier from Edmonton on Wednesday. "But we are playing at home, so we can build on that to get results."
As if their MLS woes weren't taxing enough, Montreal is coming off a poor performance in Edmonton on Wednesday, where the Impact dropped a 2-1 decision in the first leg of a Canadian Championship series.
Edmonton FC, which competes in the second-tier North American Soccer League, stunned the Impact when 24-year-old Michael Nonni capitalized on a missed back pass by defender Karl Ouimette in stoppage time.
"It's obviously disappointing, especially to lose it on a simple mistake," said Jack McInerney after the game. McInerney's header broke the deadlock in the 56th minute. "We wanted to control the game a little more, but I don't think we transitioned from defence to offence well enough.
"The positive thing is that we have the second leg at home. We can score a couple of goals and put them away."
The second leg of the Canadian Championship is on May 14 at Saputo Stadium. The winner will face either Toronto FC or the Vancouver Whitecaps in the final.
Notes: Defender Hassoun Camara will miss Saturday's game due to a one-match suspension. … Justin Mapp has scored four times and recorded nine assists against Sporting KC in his career. … Goalie Troy Perkins, tied for fourth in MLS with 27 saves, has played all 720 minutes for the Impact this season. … Montreal and Kansas City meet for the third and final time this season on July 12 at Saputo Stadium.