MONTREAL, CANADA - JULY 18: Justin Mapp #21 of the Montreal Impact and Benny Feilhaber #22 of the New England Revolution battle for the ball during the MLS match at the Saputo Stadium on July 18, 2012 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Impact defeated the Revolution 2-1. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
The New England Revolution are looking to snap their long winless streak on Sunday night when they welcome the Montreal Impact to Gillette Stadium for the first time in history. The Revs played an ugly 1-0 loss against Sporting KC last weekend, while Montreal is coming off a comfortable 2-0 win despite going a man down in the 68th minute.
Montreal is a squad that plays hard on offense, but not so much on defense. Also, they've been downright terrible on the road. The key for the New England Revolution is to man up and remember that they're playing at home. Shalrie is gone; Clyde Simms and Benny Feilhaber need to grab this match by the scruff of the neck and take over. The offense should also get a welcome jolt in the arm with the return of Jerry Bengtson, though Jay heaps may elect to rest him after an arduous Olympic campaign. The Revs' attackers will have to deal with Italian World Cup winner and all-around defensive legend Alessandro Nesta, who has been marshaling the Impact defense to great effect since he signed in Canada.
Montreal's offense is far more potent than its defense. Felipe Martins is quickly becoming the creative, dynamic centerpiece for that offense, while Marco di Vaio and Andrew Wenger continue to show the ability to finish. The Revs back line will need to be at its best - far better than it was last time these two teams met - to keep the Impact off the board.
Today's Q&A is with Giovanni Sardo from Mount Royal Soccer, SB Nation's Montreal Impact blog.
TBM: Sixth place, eh? You looked out of it for most of the year, but a reckless brand of attacking soccer seems to have the Impact soaring at the moment, just out of a playoff place. But you've played more games than almost anyone else, limiting your chances to make up ground. What do you think of Montreal's playoff chances this season? If they don't make it, how would you feel the season has gone for the team?
GS: We've managed to flirt with the playoffs here and there. The only way that we can make the playoffs is if we become the hottest team in the MLS until the end of the season. We control our own destiny. We can't drop points, we can't afford a bad game. Our playoff chances are linked to our health. If Alessandro Nesta, Matteo Ferrari, Nelson Rivas (once he's back from suspension), Felipe and Marco Di Vaio can remain healthy, I like our chances to be the Cinderella team. If we make it, we'll be that team that no one wants to play against.
If, by any chance, we don't make it, we can go into the offseason with our heads held high. The season will still be considered a success. There are a lot of positives to build on for next season. We have more wins that our Canadian cousins TFC and Vancouver did in their expansion years. We should get the record for most goals by an expansion team. Barring injuries, we'll have a full season of our nucleus (Nesta, Ferrari, Rivas, Zarek Valentin, Felipe, Patrice Bernier, Andrew Wenger and Marco Di Vaio) We also can't forget that we dealt with some big injury problems with Bernardo Corradi, Nelson Rivas and Matteo Ferrari being out for extended periods of time. Toss in the mistakes from our ex-goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, it's a lot to deal with for any team.
You heard it here first: WE WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS NEXT YEAR, WITHOUT A DOUBT.
TBM: Alessandro Nesta recently joined the squad, and I think a lot of people, while excited to have a World Cup winner and one of the best defenders of the last 20 years in the league, expected him to have some difficulty dealing with the physical nature of MLS. He looked great on his debut, though. What sort of an impact has he had on, well, the Impact?
GS: Nesta was brought in to be much more than just a player. Not only is he our best defensive player, he's a mentor, an assistant coach, an assistant sporting director and much more. I'm surprised that he hasn't been seen filling water bottles yet. On the field, he's become our general. He shuts down the opponents' best forward, he controls the defensive line and he handles the set piece defense set up. Off the field, he's taken our young centre back Karl W. Ouimette under his wing (remember that name). I also believe that he was instrumental in the trading of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. It was clear during games that he didn't trust Ricketts, who is known to have an unorthodox style but also had ball control and communication issues. Alessandro came here to win. The Impact will listen to his every word. Look at the career he's had, I think he knows a thing or two about winning, you have to use that asset to its full potential.
TBM: Nelson Rivas certainly did your squad no favors and brought a lot of controversy down on the Impact with his headbutt. How will the team cope with the incident, and who do you see replacing him in the starting XI?
GS: There is no controversy here in Montreal. Although it was a poor decision on his part, he reacted to a dangerous WWE-style takedown that happened seconds prior to the head butt. He will accept his suspension, sit out the number of games required, come back and be even more determined to help the club. We don't support the reaction, but we support our player.
As for his replacement, Matteo Ferrari will move in alongside Nesta and our unsung hero of the season, Jeb Brovsky, should get the start as a full back. We'll be just fine.
TBM: Last time you gave us an under-the-radar player to look out for. Now, tell us who you think the Impact fear most on the pitch for the Revolution.
GS: When a coach sets up his game plan, you have to plan to defend against the one who can cause the most damage. In my opinion, that man is Saer Sene. He's big, physical and he has 9 goals on the year. With keeper Troy Perkins getting his first start with the Impact against the Revs, the defence will want to work even harder to limit any chances.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
Impact will win this one 3-0