Montreal Impact contend with tight schedule
MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact will have to find their legs and make the most of a short turnaround.
After a midweek loss at Real Salt Lake, the last-place Impact will be on just two days’ rest when they welcome the Portland Timbers to Saputo Stadium on Sunday, Montreal’s third game in eight days.
The Impact are coming off a fourth consecutive defeat — their longest losing streak in a single Major League Soccer season — after conceding two second-half goals to RSL forward Olmes Garcia en route to a 3-1 loss.
Last Saturday, the Impact squandered an early lead, giving up two second-half strikes from distance in a 2-1 defeat against the Columbus Crew.
“Obviously, we’ve got to assess how our guys are feeling” said Impact manager Frank Klopas after Thursday’s loss in Utah.
“We had to play on the west coast, and then we have to play Sunday at home against a team that’s just waiting and resting. It’s about getting guys in the right moment. Right now the mentality is going to be to do whatever we have to do to get a result.”
The Impact (3-11-5) played with just 10 men for the final half hour on Thursday after midfielder Issey Nakajima-Farran was shown a straight red card in the 65th minute for a studs-up challenge deemed too dangerous by referee Drew Fischer.
Nakajima-Farran will miss the game versus Portland as a result of the suspension.
The Timbers have won three of their last five MLS road games. Sitting seventh in the Western Conference and just three points out of a playoff spot, Portland (5-6-9) will be looking to build on last week’s 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids, which ended the Timbers’ four-game winless run.
“That really felt like a good step in the right direction,” Timbers midfielder and Canadian international Will Johnson told the team’s website on Friday.
“It’s just a good opportunity for us to continue momentum. I like our road form right now. I like how we feel. We’ve gone to really tough stadia and gotten good results.”
Montreal and Portland have faced off just twice since the Impact joined MLS in 2012.
READ MORE: Impact looking to start a winning streak
The Timbers lost on both occasions — 2-0 on the road at Olympic Stadium in 2012, and 2-1 at Providence Park in 2013.
After Sunday, the teams will not meet again this season.
“We’re excited for the challenge,” said defender Michael Harrington from Portland on Friday. “If we can rattle off two wins in a row, it will be great for the team morale. It will be a test. They have some good players, some tricky players up top that we’ll have to deal with in the back.”
Johnson added that the Timbers will have to respect Montreal, despite its record.
“We have to be careful,” added Johnson, whose team has 24 points from 20 games this season.
“We’ve had a few good wins this year and we felt that we could really get on a run, and we haven’t taken advantage of that. The guys know that it’s time. There are no more second chances. The table is getting tight. Every game from here on in is very important, and every point is valuable.”
Montreal, which has been at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings since April. 5., has yet to beat a Western Conference opponent this season (0-5-1).
The Impact have scored an MLS-low 19 goals this year, and have not found the back of the net more than once in a game since June 29.
The team is tied for the fewest wins this season, and their minus-15 goal differential is second worst in MLS behind only the Houston Dynamo.
The Timbers, meanwhile, are tied for third in the league with 32 goals, and have scored 11 times on the road.
Argentinian forward Maximiliano Urruti, who leads the Timbers with eight goals this season, will be looking to score in back-to-back contests for just the second time this year.
Portland is also known for getting off to a fast start, having scored a league-high six goals in the opening 15 minutes of games.
“We’re playing another good team that has a lot of quality in the final third,” said Klopas, who has yet to beat the Timbers in three opportunities as a head coach (0-2-1).
“They are a good possession team. But right now, it’s about doing whatever it’s going to take to get a result, and that kind of mentality.”
After starting the game against Real Salt Lake on the bench, striker Jack McInerney could be back in the starting lineup on Sunday. McInerney has not scored in his last four games.
READ MORE: Ambitious Impact make statement signings
Goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who played 51 games with the Timbers between 2011 and 2012, could also be back in the starting 11 after backup ‘keeper Evan Bush conceded a total five goals in consecutive losses.
Perkins was acquired by the Impact in 2012 in exchange for Donovan Ricketts.
Notes: Impact captain Patrice Bernier will make his 150th career appearance for the club on Sunday.
Defender Eric Miller (hamstring) and midfielder Gorka Larrea (hamstring) are both questionable.
Of defender Heath Pearce’s two career goals, one was a game-winner against the Timbers in 2012.
Montreal has yet to lose at home when scoring first (3-0-2).
Klopas’ men open their 2014-2015 Champions League campaign when the team welcomes El Salvador’s FAS to Saputo Stadium on Aug. 8.
© The Canadian Press, 2014