Looking to extend their recent dominance over Eastern Conference teams and post their first four-match league winning streak in nearly six years, Real Salt Lake takes on the struggling Montreal Impact on Wednesday night.
Real (6-1-6) has reeled off four straight wins over Eastern Conference opponents, part of a season-long trend in which the West has enjoyed a decisive advantage in interconference play. RSL are coming off a 2-1 victory over reigning MLS Cup champions Atlanta United on Friday night, claiming all three points on Jefferson Savarino’s 94th-minute goal.
“We deserved that win – 100 percent,” Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke said. “There have been games over the last couple years that we’ve won late that you could argue, we weren’t the better team. There’s no relief in there. In that goal, there’s justification.”
Sebastian Saucedo scored Real’s other goal, giving him markers in back-to-back matches. Petke has started the 22-year-old in the last three matches and is pleased with the midfielder’s progress.
“Bofo has been taking advantage of his opportunities over the last couple of weeks,” Petke said. ” I have to do my best to keep him as grounded as possible because he still has a long way to go in cleaning up certain little things, but he’s shown over the last two weeks what kind of player he can be in large chunks of the game.”
RSL have not won four straight league matches since June 1-29, 2013.
Montreal (6-3-6) has taken just one point from its last three matches following a 4-2 defeat at Western Conference frontrunner Los Angeles FC on Friday night. It was the third loss in four matches against Western Conference teams for the Impact, who were overwhelmed in the first 31 minutes as LAFC ran out to a 3-0 lead.
An own goal by LAFC and a late penalty by Saphir Taider made the scoreline more respectable, but Montreal’s defense has been taking on water of late. The Impact have conceded nine goals in their last five matches after shipping three in the previous six while recording five shutouts.
“We put ourselves in danger when we lost possession and in the end, we end up conceding,” full back Bacary Sagna said. “But there were positives: in the second half, our mindset was a lot better and we used our possession more efficiently to score twice, which isn’t easy here. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.”
One positive note for the Impact as they enter the opener of a four-match homestand was the return of winger Ignacio Piatti, who had missed 10 matches with a knee injury. The Argentine became the all-time leader in MLS games played for Montreal with his 125th, but manager Remi Garde may have to rotate his top offensive threat since the Impact play three matches in eight days starting with Wednesday’s contest.
The Impact are 2-0-2 in the last four matches between the teams after playing to a 1-1 draw in last year’s lone meeting. Joao Plata converted a penalty for RSL in the first half and Jukka Raitala equalized in the second. Montreal has won all three home matches over RSL by a combined 10-4 scoreline.
(Jefferson Savarino photo courtesy Real Salt Lake official Twitter account)
(Ignacio Piatti photo courtesy Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)