MONTREAL – They will need help, but the Montreal Impact will be gunning for home field advantage in the playoffs when they face the New England Revolution in Foxborough, Mass., on Sunday.
If the fifth-place Impact (11-10-12) defeat the seventh-place Revolution (10-14-9), they still need Orlando to win or draw against fourth-place D.C. United to get home field for the single-game knockout round of MLS playoffs next week. Montreal clinched a playoff spot with a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC last Sunday.
“We have to give everything we can to try to get that home game,” captain Patrice Bernier said Friday. “Of course, we don’t now what’s going to happen with the D.C. game, but if we do it’s great.
“This is a homer league. At Saputo Stadium, we’ve proven it’s a big advantage but we’re also comfortable playing away. We’ve shown this year we’re a much better away team.”
The entire league is in action on Sunday with final playoff placings on the line. With 46 points, D.C. is one point ahead of Montreal. Sixth-place Philadelphia has 42 points and has a chance to catch Montreal with a win at home against the New York Red Bulls, who have all-but clinched top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Hoping for a United loss is a long shot. The hottest team in the east is on a four-game winning run in which it has outscored opponents 12-3, including a 4-1 victory over Orlando on Sept. 24.
But Montreal is also hot, with two wins and a draw in their last three games.
New England is not officially eliminated, but they will need to beat the Impact by at least 12 goals to have any hope of taking sixth place away from Philadelphia, which is not likely.
Union coach Jay Heaps wants his team to go all-out in their regular season finale, if only to reward the crowd of up to 40,000 expected at Gillette Stadium. That could play into Montreal’s strong counter-attacking game.
“We wait for teams to come at us and, at the last moment, we attack,” said forward Dominic Oduro. “We did that in Orlando (a 1-0 win on Oct. 2) when we had one chance and put it away.”
The Revolution counter with rangy striker Kei Kamara, the Impact’s nemesis who has seven goals in his last five games against Montreal, starting when he was with Columbus and continuing after his trade to New England in May. Most recently, the Sierra Leone native had a goal in the Revs 3-1 win in Montreal on Sept. 17.
Kamara is also one of Oduro’s best friends in the league.
“I want to tell him to take it easy,” Oduro joked. “They’re out of the playoffs, so they might as well let us have fun over there.”
Oduro is part of a new first 11 put together by coach Mauro Biello at the start of their winning run. It features Matteo Mancosu at striker in place of Didier Drogba, the former Chelsea star who bolted the team when he learned he wouldn’t be a starter against Toronto, but has since returned.
Drogba missed training this week with a sore back and is unlikely to play. He would not normally start in New England anyway because the game is to be played on artificial turf, which is hard on his 38-year-old knees.
Mansocu has quickly found chemistry with team scoring leader Ignacio Piatti, while Oduro adds speed on the wing that is particularly dangerous on counter-attacks. A central midfield of Bernier, Hernan Bernardello and Marco Donadel brings skill and experience.
Non-starters like Drogba, Johan Venegas, Calum Mallace, Harry Shipp, Wandrille Lefevre and Donny Toia could be key coming off the bench.
Biello said he will need to manage his lineup because they may end up playing three times in eight days. If they win the knockout game, the conference semifinals start next weekend.
“I have to balance my lineup so we have a good chance to win this game and, at the same time, to save some guys so they’re fresh for the playoff game on Wednesday (or Thursday),” said Biello. “That is a challenge, but everyone’s important on this team.”
The Impact are 4-5-7 in away games this season, while New England is 8-4-4 at home. New England’s final home game last year was also against Montreal and the Impact won 1-0 before a crowd of 42,947.
Drogba was fined an undisclosed amount by MLS on Friday for missing a game without permission and Bernardello was also fined for a hands to the face violation against TFC’s Armando Cooper.