Oct 30, 2013, 8:08 PM EDT
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.
Aug 23, 2014, 1:22 PM EDT
Gunners defend sloppily and Everton take full advantage. Watch the 2nd half live, here.
Aug 23, 2014, 12:54 PM EDT
Dyche: “We knew this would be a challenge, a difficult one, and we are enjoying the way the team are operating, but we need to get points on the board.”
Aug 23, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT
Karim Bellarabi nutmegged Matthias Ginter and put Bayer Leverkusen into the record books nine seconds into the match at Dortmund.
Aug 23, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT
Toffees and Gunners clash at Goodison as top four hopefuls collide. Watch live, here.
Aug 23, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
Dyer’s solo strike the difference as brave Burnley fall at the Liberty.
Aug 23, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
Three different Hammers netted for Sam Allardyce as West Ham rebounded from a loss to Spurs to win a London derby at Palace.
Aug 23, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT
Saints, Baggies fail to score in closely fought encounter on the South Coast.
Aug 23, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
The Foxes were game, but Chelsea’s class shone through by the time 90 minutes were in the books.
Aug 23, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT
The Newcastle boss went above and beyond the call of duty, putting on clown shoes for a moment on the sidelines.
Aug 23, 2014, 10:55 AM EDT
Four games on the go, but goals are scarce. Watch them all live, here.
Aug 23, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT
American goalkeeper Brad Guzan helped Aston Villa stay unbeaten by keeping Newcastle at bay in a scoreless draw at Villa Park.
Aug 23, 2014, 9:36 AM EDT
West Ham’s second London derby in as many weeks provides a chance at win No. 1.
Aug 23, 2014, 9:27 AM EDT
Can the Swans sweep aside new boys Burnley? Watch live, right here.
Aug 23, 2014, 9:17 AM EDT
Both teams go in search of their first victory of the season. Watch live, here.
Aug 23, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
Will Leicester surprise another Premier League power, or will Chelsea look just as strong as they did in Monday’s dismantling of Burnley?
Aug 23, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
The Scot has apologized, but fresh allegations claim that Mackay used an offensive Asian slur to describe Cardiff owner Vincent Tan.
Aug 23, 2014, 8:32 AM EDT
There are no casualties among the stadium staff in a scary incident at Donbass Arena.
Aug 23, 2014, 7:10 AM EDT
Aston Villa and Newcastle United’s starting lineups are unchanged from opening weekend, and the most notable change is on the Magpies bench.
Aug 23, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT
How and where to watch every single PL game live online or via the app.
Aug 23, 2014, 2:52 AM EDT
April’s 3-0 loss at Goodison was the low point of Arsenal’s 2013-14 season.
- Watch Live: Everton vs. Arsenal (Lineups) 0
- Chelsea 2-0 Leicester City: Costa scores again, Hazard ensures win 1
- Aston Villa 0-0 Newcastle: Guzan saves a point as Villa moves top 0
- ‘Powerful explosions’ rock Shakhtar Donetsk’s home stadium in Ukraine 2
- WATCH: Premier League online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 2 0
- MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 2-1 Real Salt Lake 0