Skip to content

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

Oct 30, 2013, 8:08 PM EST

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. Diego Costa maintains his innocence, says “I’ve not done anything wrong”

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:20 PM EST

    Diego Costa, Chelsea FC Diego Costa, Chelsea FC

    Diego Costa has again claimed his own innocence. And you know what? I believe that he believes he’s done nothing wrong.

  2. Sam Allardyce: Liverpool “weren’t outstanding at all,” injuries downed West Ham

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:43 PM EST

    Sam Allardyce, West Ham United Sam Allardyce, West Ham United

    Big Sam was quick to take the credit away from Liverpool and place the blame for Saturday’s loss on his own injury “crisis.”

  3. Louis van Gaal: Manchester United “killed the game” with loss at Leicester City in mind

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:24 PM EST

    Louis van Gaal, Manchester United Louis van Gaal, Manchester United

    Van Gaal remembers what happened last time his side led Leicester, and he learns his lessons the first time.

  4. DONE DEAL: Seydou Doumbia to Roma headlines quiet Saturday for transfers

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:30 PM EST

    Seydou Doumbia, CSKA Moscow Seydou Doumbia, CSKA Moscow

    All of the day’s confirmed, officially official transfer dealings from Saturday, Jan. 31.

  5. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea into SF after wild day of events

    Jan 31, 2015, 7:27 PM EST

    Tunisia vs. Equatorial Guinea, AFCON 2015 Tunisia vs. Equatorial Guinea, AFCON 2015

    The actual games took a backseat to shenanigans as two of four semifinals places were booked on Saturday.

  6. Premier League Sunday preview: Top-half teams jockey for position

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:57 PM EST

    bae0b6330cf33479c7548821a12d22b5 Getty Images

    Arsenal and Southampton hope to keep their assaults on the Top Four in order, while Aston Villa and Swansea City hope to snap skids.

  7. Bundesliga wrap: Wolfsburg ends Bayern’s unbeaten dreams, USMNT’s Johnson strong

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:19 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Bundesliga AP

    And to think, we’ve still a pair of Sunday matches on the slate. Let’s go through what’s done and dusted.

  8. Premier League roundup: Big wins for Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and more

    Jan 31, 2015, 3:40 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-LEICESTER FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-LEICESTER

    There were eight games in the PL on a busy Saturday. Here’s how it all went down with recaps, analysis and much more.

  9. Pellegrini “not happy with a point”, takes sly shots at Mourinho’s game plan

    Jan 31, 2015, 3:20 PM EST

    Chelsea v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Manchester City’s boss thought his charges were very good, but is disappointed to snare a solitary point against Chelsea.

  10. Man City’s Lampard reacts to “bit of a strange day” in return to Chelsea (video)

    Jan 31, 2015, 3:12 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-MAN CITY Getty Images

    Lampard was the last player on the pitch, saluting both groups of supporters.

  11. Three things we learned from Chelsea vs. Manchester City

    Jan 31, 2015, 3:06 PM EST

    Chelsea v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    What did we learn from the tense draw at Stamford Bridge? Here’s three things.

  12. Player Ratings: How did Chelsea, Manchester City’s stand-in’s fare?

    Jan 31, 2015, 2:47 PM EST

    Remy slots home the opener. AP

    Giving Chelsea and City’s players a mark out of 10.

  13. Chelsea 1-1 Manchester City: Blues maintain five-point lead atop table

    Jan 31, 2015, 2:21 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    All the goal scoring came within the 41st and 45th minutes at Stamford Bridge, as City failed to cut into Chelsea’s first-place advantage.

  14. At the half: Chelsea and City level at 1 after late goals from Remy, Silva

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:21 PM EST

    Milner had a great game for City. AP

    It started off slow and tentative, but the big match between Chelsea and Manchester City is opening up

  15. David Moyes reveals his Spanish teacher is a Manchester United fan

    Jan 31, 2015, 1:04 PM EST

    Real Sociedad de Futbol v Elche FC - La Liga Getty Images

    Moyesy is learning Spanish from a Manchester United fan…

  16. Roberto Martinez hopes much-needed win “kick starts” Everton’s season

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:50 PM EST

    Hull City v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    For the Toffees, defense is the way forward for the rest of the season.

  17. After scoring vs Burnley, Jermain Defoe feels “like I have a lot of goals left in me”

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:33 PM EST

    Sunderland v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    “It’s always difficult to be honest when you’ve had a long break,” Defoe said. “But I’ve had a mini-pre-season and I’m getting sharper and sharper.”

Featured video

Chelsea v Man City: Lampard the hero?