Toronto, ON (SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Impact is one win away from clinching a playoff berth in its second MLS season, and the only thing standing in the way on the final weekend of the campaign is Toronto FC.
The two Canadian rivals will square off at BMO Field on Saturday with Montreal having everything to lose, while Toronto will try to close out the season by spoiling things for the Impact.
Montreal will not only clinch a playoff spot with a win over TFC, but the team will secure third place in the Eastern Conference, allowing Marco Schallibaum's men to avoid a one-game playoff in the opening round.
The Impact will be playing one of the first games of the weekend on Saturday, allowing the other sides in contention to sit back and see what result they need in order to qualify for the postseason, which doesn't sit well with the Montreal coach.
"It's not fair, but that's the way it is," Schallibaum said of the schedule. "We're playing before everybody else, and for the teams still in it, it's important that we play at the same time. Certain things can happen, like a team deciding before its game that a point is enough. But it doesn't change our attitude. We're going to Toronto with only one objective: winning."
Schallibaum's side earned just one point from its previous six games prior to a 2-1 comeback win over Philadelphia last time out, a result that has saved the season and could serve as a turning point.
After going behind to a first-half goal from Fabinho, Montreal rallied to claim three points with a 64th-minute tally from Marco Di Vaio to level the contest before Karl Ouimette netted the winner six minutes from time.
Toronto would seem to be an ideal opponent for a team like Montreal with TFC having lost four of its last five games.
However, the Impact is 0-4-3 in all competitions at BMO Field dating back to the 2008 Canadian Championship, and Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins knows that Toronto will be plenty motivated.
"This will make their season," Perkins said of Saturday's game. "If they can knock us out of the playoffs, or even knock us down to that fifth spot where we have to play an extra game, it'd be great for them. For them to get a result, the way they've had this whole season, would be a huge relief for them going into next year."
Toronto was a bit unlucky to come away with a 1-0 defeat to Chicago last weekend, but head coach Ryan Nelsen was still encouraged by his side's performance considering the lack of experience in the lineup.
"It was a really good away performance," Nelsen said of the match in Chicago. "These are high-pressure games away from home, with the crowd up for it and against teams that are playoff teams. One thing that gives us a lot of confidence is how we competed even with the injuries we have, and with us playing lot of young players against a team where even their bench has far more experience than our starters."