Montreal Impact look to go further than ever in MLS Cup Playoff
Montreal carry healthy squad and lead into Red Bull Arena. What could possibly go wrong?
The Montreal Impact are a game away from going further in the MLS Cup Playoff than they ever have before.
They have a healthy starting eleven and are riding a wave of momentum following two victories to start the playoffs.
But standing in the way is the top team in the conference, the New York Red Bulls, and a venue, Red Bull Arena, where they've never won a game.
Another 'monkey off their back'
When a team breaks a bad trend there is old saying to describe it as "getting the monkey off your back."
Impact have never won in Red Bull Arena so you could say there is a gorilla size primate perched on the team's shoulders this weekend.
In the five years Montreal has played in MLS, they've visited Red Bull Arena seven times. They have zero wins and have been outscored 21-7.
But this year, historical insufficiency hasn't proved to bother the squad.
The Impact had never won in Toronto, but this year they did. The Impact had never won in D.C., but they did it in the playoffs.
That's two monkeys already. With a win Sunday, the Impact have enough to fill a barrel.
Mauro Biello has coached his team to buy into a counter attack strategy which is turning long shot situations away from home into victories.
"Most of [our] record at away games is really good and there's a reason why," says midfielder Dominic Oduro.
"We are very, very smart and we are very, very in-sync in terms of team shape and everything. It's just a matter of who wants it out there."
The Impact don't keep their plan a secret — sit back and play defence then turn up the offence when the opponents overextend themselves.
With a 1-0 lead coming into the game, Biello knows that the Red Bulls are going to have to attack.
"The message is that you gotta believe that we can score at any moment in a game. We're going away and away goals are important and having that mentality and that mindset is a start to what we want to achieve," said Biello.
Since Matteo Mancosu replaced the legendary Didier Drogba as the Impact's starting striker he's shown that he has the magic touch.
Mancosu has three goals in two playoff games.
"I'm going through a good period right now, I'm scoring goals," said the 31-year-old Italian striker. "I'm seeing the net very well. I hope it continues."
The Impact could advance with a 0-0 draw but mostly likely they're going to need a goal.
And while Mancosu could provide it, it's probable that Drogba will be called to come off bench and save the day.
Drogba has made a career out of rising up to the moment and if he were able to deliver for Impact fans this weekend it could also save his legacy in the city.
Drogba's decision to walk away from the team ahead of the final regular season home game has turned many against him.
His refusal to accept Biello's coaching decision to start him on the bench was seen as selfish "me-before-the-team" move.
Since then he's come back to the team but hasn't played due to a back injury.
But now he appears healthy and this changed his tone to that of the ultimate team player who is willing to do whatever the coach asks.
"I've done that in my career even in Chelsea in the Champions League ... I can be on the bench without making it a big drama," Drogba said.
All will be forgiven if Drogba comes through when it counts.