Impact eyes Canadian Championship final in must-win clash against Vancouver
For the Montreal Impact players, the objective tonight couldn’t be clearer. Win, in any way, shape, or form, and the squad books its ticket to the Canadian Championship final, where it’ll get a chance to play in next year’s Champions League.
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Montreal Impact are set to close out this phase of the season tonight at 9:30pm EDT (TVA Sports, TSN, 98.5, TSN 690), and a win would see the Impact finish atop the mini tournament among Canadian MLS teams, which also leads to a place in the CanChamp final, a one-legged affair against the champion of the CPL.
In Montreal’s way is a desperate Whitecaps side that will do anything in its power to spoil the party for the visitors at BC Place and get back on track in the Western Conference standings. And with the way last game ended, tensions are sure to be high when the game kicks off, although the Impact’s head coach isn’t too concerned.
“I don’t think about that,” said Impact head coach Thierry Henry. “What I do think about is how they can hurt us with the way they play and how we can hurt them with the way we play. Sometimes, things happen in games that you can’t explain and that’s what happened the other day. The referee did what he had to do and the league as well, and we’re just trying to play football. That’s what I’m focusing on.”
The Impact’s four-goal performance against the BC side just three days ago means they now have the luxury of not having to pay attention to goal differential. Three points will bring the Impact level with Toronto FC in the final six-game standings, although the Impact would edge them on the other tie breakers in any winning scenario – with total goals scored or away goal differential, either or.
What the Montreal side will have to manage, however, is how to react if they take a one-goal lead, knowing full well that would be enough to get them in the final, although Thierry Henry has shown in the past that he isn’t the type of manager to sit on a lead.
“We want to move forward, score goals and play entertaining soccer,” said defender Jukka Raitala. “If we score the first goal, we want to score the second or third. We can’t go in there thinking we need to only win 1-0. We want to score as many goals as possible.”
“Complacency isn’t in my dictionary. I never talk about it,” said Henry. “I always talk about trying to win games, trying to move forward. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, and I have to rectify it. We’re not talking about how easy of a game it’s going to be or that we’ve beat them twice already. Our minds are not there. At all. One game at a time. Whatever happened in the past stays there. You have to respect your opponent and be prepared.”
Both teams will be missing key pieces, as the Impact’s Emanuel Maciel and Vancouver’s Lucas Cavallini will be serving suspensions for their red cards on Sunday. Fatigue will also be a factor, as the Impact gets set to play a third game in eight days, with another coming this Sunday as well against the Philadelphia Union.
But considering the first two games between these sides this year, it’s sure to be some entertaining football.
“We can and we will be very dangerous,” finished Raitala.