We all know it: the real season is the playoffs. The best have been split from the rest. In the playoffs, legends are born, supporters are pumped, players give their 111% - clichés flow in abundance. And if the road towards the championship is a tedious one, it only makes victory tastier. In its history, the Montreal Impact has been crowned champion three times: in 1994, the very first time the club qualified for the A-League’s end of season tournament; in 2004, doing the double after having won the regular season; and in 2009, for the first time in its new Stade Saputo home.
IMFC in the playoffs is almost the natural order of things. The Montrealers, in 26 seasons (including the NPSL indoor seasons played at the Molson Centre, back in the day), qualified 19 times, a success rate of 73%. In MLS, the picture is also positive: three tickets for the fall tournament in five years. In fact, since 2012, when the Impact joined the major league, exactly half of MLS clubs have qualified three times or more for the playoffs.
D.C. United, an opponent with a rich history
The Montreal Impact will face D.C. United for the first time in the playoffs. In its previous two appearances, the Bleu-blanc-noir squared off against Houston Dynamo in a knockout game in 2013 (a sour 3-0 loss in which Marco Di Vaio and Andrés Romero saw red), Toronto FC in 2015, also in a knockout game (an indisputable 3-0 win where the rival was clearly baffled by an electrical Stade Saputo and a bright performance by the Montreal squad) and Columbus Crew SC, the eventual 2015 MLS Cup finalist, in the Eastern Conference semi-final (which started well with a 2-1 home win to finish in overtime with a 3-1 win by the Ohioan locals).
The representatives from the US capital, in turn, have been in MLS for two decades and are amongst the most successful clubs in the league: four championships in five MLS Cup appearances, even though the last title date back to 2004. Last year, D.C. United’s path was similar to the Impact’s: a 2-1 knockout game win at home against New England Revolution which led to a dead end against New York Red Bulls with a 2-0 aggregate score. In the past five years, the Black-and-Red has only missed out on the playoffs once, in 2013, finishing dead last in the league.
But all of this will be quickly forgotten on the RFK Stadium pitch, where the Impact will try and add another victorious chapter to its history.