Skip to content

MLS Playoff Focus: Notes on Montreal ahead of Thursday’s meeting with Houston

Oct 30, 2013, 8:08 PM EDT

Marco Di Vaio 2

Ahead of Thursday’s single elimination playoff between Houston and Montreal, here are the most-knows about the visiting Impact ahead of the 8:30 p.m. ET kickoff (NBCSN):

  • Marco Di Vaio’s special season

The Impact’s last time on the field turned into the hated double bummer; Les Bleus fell to Toronto while watching striker Marco Di Vaio fail to claim the Golden Boot, never mind his sparkling 20-goal season. The 37-year-old striker wandered into final weekend soccer level with Mike Magee for league leadership. Magee scored, Vancouver’s Camilo scored even more and, well … Di Vaio did not.

Still,, what a season. Remember, 20-goal campaigns remain rare in MLS, still a significant benchmark. There were just 10 previous instances through 17 MLS seasons.

  • Alessandro Nesta is out

You could probably make some case that Marco Schallibaum’s team is better without the veteran Italian – although it would be something of a stretch.

Nesta’s foot speed just isn’t what it was previously during all those years at Lazio, Milan and with the Italian national team. (Truly, the man was one of the defensive giants of a land that appreciates defenders like it appreciates carefully crafted pasta.) So, he tends to get exposed when caught one-on-one against younger, faster types.

But again, it’s a case that looks like small noodles to me. Because Nesta’s positioning and anticipation is so good that he’s an expert at avoiding those situations. Plus, neither Houston striker, Will Bruin nor Giles Barnes, is particularly fast.

Besides, a guy with 78 caps for Italy and a World Cup winner’s medal (2006) … yeah, you want him on the field. Nesta is out with a calf injury. Young backup Wandrille Lefevre or possibly outside back Hassoun Camara will be the likely replacement at center back.

  • Backing into the playoffs

Clearly, everyone around camp Les Bleus would feel better about things if the Impact had won last weekend at Toronto, claiming their spot with a winning authority rather than backing in because Chicago got clobbered at Red Bull Arena.

The Impact concluded their second MLS campaign with a 1-0 loss at Canadian rival Toronto.

“We were disappointed,” Hassoun Camara told MLSSoccer.com. “Everyone knows it was an important game for us and we wanted to show that we are a playoff team. It’s hard to deal with that.”

  • Last time in Houston? Not that bad

Yes, the Impact’s recent skid included a 1-0 loss earlier this month at Houston. But this was far from a run-away, and the Impact improved considerably and even pressed Houston at times once Andrew Wenger came in for the final half hour.

Where Montreal lost the game was in midfield, where orange-clad Boniek Garcia, Warren Creavalle and Ricardo Clark were simply better than the visitors’ men in the middle third. Then again, Montreal was missing its main man in the center, Patrice Bernier.

So while the Impact’s 4-9-4 record away from Stade Saputo isn’t anything to shout about, they don’t have the very worst of memories of walking down that ramp at BBVA.

  • Choices in the Impact midfield

There are lots of edges that point to Houston, so it seems important for Les Bleus manager Marco Schallibaum to get his lineup absolutely right. Health and fitness will probably dictate the back line choices, but the Swiss manager does have options in midfield.

Veterans Justin Mapp (who was having a great season prior to the club’s fall dip) and Davy Arnaud look set on the outside. Arnaud is from Texas (not far from Houston, in Nederland), so this contest is extra special to him.

The real choice will be at attacking midfielder, where the decision is pretty much down to Wenger or Felipe Martins. Martins is the more creative and skillful, but he hasn’t been great lately – one of the reasons Montreal was shut out in four of its last five matches. (Then again, no one in Impact blue has done well lately except perhaps for Di Vaio.)

Wenger is more physical, and while the current Dynamo version doesn’t pack the physical punch of past teams in orange, playoff games against Houston will always have a certain bump and grind about them.

(More on MLS playoffs: Previewing Montreal Impact at Houston Dynamo)

Latest Posts
  1. Where in the world is Angel Di Maria? Man United boss Louis van Gaal has no idea

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:27 PM EDT

    Louis van Gaal & Angel Di Maria, Manchester United FC Louis van Gaal & Angel Di Maria, Manchester United FC

    Louis van Gaal seems to have misplaced his club’s $90 million investment, purchased just 12 months ago.

  2. Anfield exit looming? Balotelli, Borini left out of squad for Liverpool’s final preseason games

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT

    Mario Balotelli, Liverpool FC Mario Balotelli, Liverpool FC

    With three attacking signings already made this summer, Balotelli and Borini look destined to leave Liverpool before the transfer deadline.

  3. Report: Julian Green will start season with Bayern Munich reserves, not on loan

    Jul 30, 2015, 6:24 PM EDT

    Julian Green, FC Bayern Munich Getty Images

    Julian Green will be playing in the fourth division of German football to begin the 2015-16 season.

  4. David Beckham’s Miami MLS team is getting a really, really bad stadium deal

    Jul 30, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT

    Marlins Park — Miami Marlins Marlins Park — Miami Marlins

    The terms and conditions of building a stadium next to Marlins Park couldn’t be any less favorable to the prospective MLS franchise.

  5. CONCACAF president to review refereeing department after Gold Cup fiasco

    Jul 30, 2015, 4:02 PM EDT

    Mark Geiger — Panama vs. Mexico — 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Mark Geiger — Panama vs. Mexico — 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup

    CONCACAF’s refereeing department could be in line for something of an overhaul in the coming months and years.

  6. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Norwich City

    Jul 30, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Norwich City FC Norwich City FC

    Back in the Premier League after a season away, can the Canaries stay up and solidify their place among England’s elite?

  7. Mauricio Pochettino: USMNT’s DeAndre Yedlin could go out on loan

    Jul 30, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    2015 MLS All-Star Game Getty Images

    Following Tottenham’s 2-1 loss to the MLS All-Stars, Mauricio Pochettino said he is unsure as to where Yedlin will be playing next season.

  8. Zlatan says his next move will be “a very big surprise”

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic AP

    Zlatan’s contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires next season, but he won’t let anyone know his plans for the future.

  9. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Newcastle United

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:10 PM EDT

    newcastlecrest

    Last season was a complete disaster for Newcastle. Can Steve McClaren turn things around for the Magpies?

  10. Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Lambert to West Brom, Balotelli back to Italy

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT

    Hull City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Liverpool could lose two strikers, while Mario Gomez is on his way to Besiktas.

  11. Chung Mong-joon to run for FIFA presidency, calls out Blatter and Platini

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:06 AM EDT

    Chung Mong-Joon Speaks About Possible FIFA President Candidacy Getty Images

    The South Korean billionaire is looking to become the new president of FIFA, and he had some choice words for his rivals.

  12. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Manchester United

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    manchester.united.crest

    Heading into Louis van Gaal’s second season at Old Trafford, trophies are on the minds of everyone in Manchester.

  13. Report: Sergio Ramos to sign extension with Real Madrid until 2020

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-MALAGA Getty Images

    The defender had been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, but it looks like he’ll be staying at Madrid.

  14. MLS All Stars 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Kaka powers MLS to win

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:15 PM EDT

    2015 AT&T Major League Soccer All-Star game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 29, 2015 in Commerce City, Colorado. Getty Images

    Kaka and David Villa scored for the All Stars, which built on last year’s 2-1 win against Bayern Munich.

  15. Manchester United 0-2 PSG: Early goals lead French champs past Red Devils

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:09 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - JULY 29:  Phil Jones and Bastian Schweinsteiger of Manchester United in action with  Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint Germain during the International Champions Cup 2015 match between Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain at Soldier Field on July 29, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Halftime substitutions including Andreas Pereira gave some life to United, but the Red Devils still couldn’t find the back of the net.

  16. WATCH: Carli Lloyd with another screamer, this time in NWSL play

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT

    LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 236 -- Pictured: Carlie Lloyd of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Champion U.S. Women's National Team, during an interview on July 27, 2015 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images) Getty Images

    The 86th minute tally came moments after FCKC had drawn level at 2-2.

  17. Jaime Penedo and L.A. Galaxy surprisingly decide to call it quits

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo #18 of the Los Angeles Galaxy makes a save in the second half of regulation time during 2014 MLS Cup at StubHub Center on December 7, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Galaxy defeated the Revolution 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Could this be on account of overseas interest, or is he just ready to go closer to home?

  18. UEFA Champions League wrap: Celtic escapes through Boyata; Ajax draws

    Jul 29, 2015, 7:14 PM EDT

    GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 29:  Dedryck  Boyata of Celtic scores against FK Qarabag during the UEFA Champions League Third Qualifying Round 1st Leg match between Celtic and FK Qarabag at Celtic Park on July 29, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Azerbaijani champions nearly walked out of Celtic Park with a deadlock, but Boyata’s second goal in as many games did the trick.

  19. Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea’s John Terry joins Rog and Davo

    Jul 29, 2015, 6:18 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo pod from Chelsea vs. Barcelona at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. Chelsea captain John Terry guests.

Featured video

Analyzing PL clubs in the transfer window