With only five games remaining this season, the Impact is three points behind the Strikers who are holding on to the sixth and final playoff spot. The Impact is also four points behind Minnesota and five points behind Edmonton.
“Our players understand the importance of this game,” said Impact head coach and sporting director Nick De Santis. “With the win in Minnesota, we are now in a better position. We must continue this trip with the same approach. The team now controls its destiny and we have the depth to succeed.”
In the last match, the Impact shut out the Stars 2-0, Saturday, at the National Sports Center. Midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic scored both goals, while goalkeeper Evan Bush registered his sixth clean sheet of the season.
“With the gap becoming much closer, it becomes more evident that upcoming games are getting more important,” added goalkeeper Evan Bush, who is leading the NASL with a 0.89 GAA, while on a streak of three shutouts. “As long as we remain calm, we should be able to do the same thing we have been doing over the last three games. The first goal will be important again.”
The Impact has scored 11 goals in the last four games. The team is also second defensively in the NASL with 25 goals against in 23 games.
“We are confident right now and we will keep the same approach and playing style to get another win,” said Hassoun Camara. “Our efforts are paying off and we have to continue with the same mentality to be even better. We are more coherent on the field, offensively and defensively, and we have found a good balance.”
This is the last of four matchups between the teams in 2011. The teams played to ties in all the games so far this season: 0-0, on May 28 in Florida and June 18 at Saputo Stadium, and 1-1 on July 13, in Montreal.
The Impact has a record of five wins, two losses and nine ties (13GF-9GA) in 16 games against the Florida team.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are currently sixth in the NASL standings with a record of six wins, seven losses and 10 ties for a total of 28 points. The Strikers have not won in their last three games (0-2-1).
Midfielder Anthony Le Gall has recovered from a light concussion and has travelled with the team to Florida.
Striker Eduardo Sebrango will miss seven to 10 days with a thigh injury. Goalkeeper Bill Gaudette (thigh), striker Ali Gerba (knee) and midfielder Antonio Ribeiro (calf) are still injured.
Following the game, the Impact will travel to Puerto Rico to face the Islanders, on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 8:05pm, at Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel, in Bayamon (puertoricoislandersfc.com). The team will be back in Montreal Thursday.
Meanwhile, Impact director of soccer operations Matt Jordan is currently on a four-day scouting trip in North Carolina to watch college teams from Louisville, North Carolina, California Santa Barbara, North Carolina State, Duke and Wake Forest.
TOWARDS THE PLAYOFFS
• At the conclusion of the regular season, the top six teams in the NASL standings will qualify for the 2011 NASL playoffs.
• The six teams will be given seeds 1 through 6 with the top team in the standings receiving the number 1 seed.
• In the event that two or more teams are level on points in the standings, the tied teams will be seeded in order of their head-to-head records against each other during the regular season. If two or more teams are level on points and in their head-to-head records against each other, the teams will be sorted in order by goal differential. If a tie still persists, the next tiebreaker will be the number of goals scored.
• The quarterfinal round will be a single match while the semifinal and final rounds will each be a home-and-away series on aggregate goals.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NASL
• Staturday, Sept. 3 – Tampa Bay @ Caroline – WakeMed Soccer Park – 7pm (carolinarailhawks.com)
• Staturday, Sept. 3 – Porto Rico @ Atlanta – Atlanta Silverbacks Stadium – 7:30pm (atlantasilverbacks.com)
• Staturday, Sept. 3 – Minnesota @ Edmonton – Foote Field – 9:30pm (fcedmonton.com)
LAST FOUR GAMES
• Wednesday, Sept. 7 – IMPACT @ Puerto Rico Islanders – Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel – 7:30pm (puertoricoislandersfc.com)
• Sunday, Sept. 11 – Carolina RailHawks @ IMPACT – Saputo Stadium – 3:30pm (98,5FM, THE TEAM 990, radio-canada.ca/sports)
• Saturday, Sept. 17 – FC Edmonton @ IMPACT – Saputo Stadium – 7:30pm (98,5FM, THE TEAM 990, radio-canada.ca/sports)
• Saturday, Sept. 24 – IMPACT @ Atlanta Silverbacks – Atlanta Silverbacks Park – 7:30pm (atlantasilverbacks.com)