Sports

Slumping Impact can't waste chance for win against expansion Minnesota

MONTREAL — It is desperation time for the Montreal Impact.

Sitting five points out of a playoff spot with seven games to go, victory is vital when the Impact play host to lowly Minnesota United on Saturday night.

"It's definitely a game when we need to be hungry and pounce on them," coach Mauro Biello said this week. "It's an urgency game for us, but it also could set the tone for the games that are coming up.

"We need to take the right approach to this game and the right mentality."

The Impact (10-11-6) put themselves in a hole when they followed up a four-game winning streak by losing three in a row — setbacks at home of 3-1 and 1-0 to Toronto and Chicago respectively — followed by a 1-0 loss last week in New England.

Getting out of it won't be easy, especially with two games on the road against first-place Toronto still to be played, including one next week at BMO Field. Only three of Montreal's last seven matches are at home.

But if there is such a thing as easy points in Major League Soccer, they should come against Minnesota (7-15-5). The expansion club sits 10th in the 11-team Western Conference and will be playing for the second time in four days after a 3-0 loss Wednesday to the Whitecaps in Vancouver.

Playing at Saputo Stadium, with a mostly healthy team and plenty of motivation, is all in Montreal's favour. And anything other than a win would pretty much end hopes of a fourth trip to the playoffs in its six MLS seasons.

"It's always tricky in this league," cautioned Biello. "They (Minnesota) have competed in every game.

"There are some quality players on that team that we need to be aware of. It's their first year, but we will focus on what we need to do to get the three points. We know it won't be easy against a team that's going to come in and try to steal points."

The Minnesota roster includes former Impact midfielders Johan Venegas and Collen Warner and they picked up a player who has given Montreal trouble before — midfielder Ethan Finlay — from Columbus on Aug. 9.

Minnesota is 1-9-2 on the road this season, the lone victory a 2-1 decision on Aug. 26 in Chicago.

The Loons have conceded a league-high 56 goals in 27 games. Their first two MLS games were setbacks of 5-1 and 6-1 and they have surrendered four or more goals four times.

That should get the salivary glands working for goal-scorers like Anthony Jackson-Hamel, who got a vote of confidence in the form of a two-year contract extension this week.

"I always get ready the same way for every team," said Jackson-Hamel. "I always want to put the ball into the net, whether we play the best team or the weakest team.

"We don't look at the game that way. We need the three points."

Montreal is without forward Matteo Mancosu, who will miss a second game with a broken hand. The Italian is training with a cast on the hand and is expected to return next week.

Forward Ballou Tabla should be available after dealing with flu-like symptoms earlier this week. 

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