The Impact look to stay in the thick of the Eastern Conference race and extend their recent mastery of Orlando City SC as the sides meet Saturday night in Montreal.
Remi Garde’s team enters play this weekend two points behind D.C. United for first place in the East, with the Philadelphia Union between them. The Impact (7-3-6) got their four-match homestand off to a positive start Wednesday, holding off Real Salt Lake 2-1.
Omar Browne scored in first-half stoppage time and Saphir Taider converted from the spot on 68 minutes for Montreal, which snapped a three-match winless streak and improved to 3-1-1 at home.
“I think it was a good way to bounce back from the past three games, where we didn’t manage the results we wanted,” said Impact midfielder Shamit Shome, who set up Browne’s goal. “It’s a good way to start. … We’re excited with what we’ve done, and we want to build on it. We’re happy with our performance. Now, we want to push this momentum to Saturday.”
Taider has scored on penalties in back-to-back matches for Montreal and leads the team with five goals, but he has not scored in the run of play since March 30. Garde likely will restore playmaker Ignacio Piatti to the first XI after holding him out versus RSL. Piatti had made his return after a 10-match absence due to a knee injury last weekend in Los Angeles.
The Impact have won four straight over Orlando City and are unbeaten in the last six matches (5-1-0) between the sides since a 4-1 defeat Sept. 7, 2016. That is also Montreal’s lone home loss to the Lions in five all-time meetings (3-1-1) at Stade Saputo, and Piatti had a brace on either side of halftime in last year’s corresponding 3-0 victory.
Orlando City (4-3-7) is 10th in the East on 15 points but just three out of a playoff spot. The Lions were thwarted in their bid to win back-to-back matches for the first time this year May 24, losing 1-0 at home to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Nani missed a penalty in the 32nd minute that could have tied the match as Orlando City lost for the fourth time in five matches.
The Lions have conceded the first goal in all five matches during their recent poor patch, a trend striker Chris Mueller knows has to end if they are going to make a push to playoff contention.
“Honestly I couldn’t tell you why. If I knew why, I think that we would have solved the problem,” he said. “We have to find a way to stop doing that. It’s really tough to come back from every game, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot and that type of stuff has to stop if we are really going to start turning the corner here. Like I said, it’s really frustrating. Tough night, tough one to swallow.”
Orlando City also has not recorded a clean sheet in six matches and owns just two shutouts on the season. Its road form also has left a lot to be desired with just five points and five goals from six matches (1-2-3). Nani has factored in three of those goals, scoring two and setting up one.