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Wileman: Impact with work left in order to qualify for playoffs

Luke Wileman
10/18/2013 10:11:12 PM
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Marco Di Vaio declared on Friday that his work in Montreal is "not yet finished," after announcing he will be staying with the club for the 2014 season.

While Di Vaio was alluding to grand aspirations for next year with that comment in his press conference at Stade Saputo, it can also be applied to this season with the club's current poor run of form leaving much work still to be done if they are to finish in the top five.

Montreal's results in recent weeks have been far from that of a playoff contender. They are winless in six and have lost three straight at home. They do however still control their destiny and sit fourth in the Eastern Conference standings with two matches left to play.

The Impact's final home game of the season on Saturday couldn't be bigger, up against a Philadelphia Union team that is tied with them on points and sitting just below them in the standings. Marco Schallibaum's men have been short on preparation time for the Union match, only arriving back in Montreal on Thursday evening after a 1-0 loss away to defending champions LA Galaxy on Wednesday night.

With an understrength squad, the Impact were unfortunate not to leave California with a point. The performance was certainly a major improvement on the display in the 1-0 loss at home to New England Revolution a few days earlier.

The biggest concern for me last Saturday was not the result against the Revs, but the lackluster performance Montreal put in. They lacked urgency, cohesion and looked bereft of ideas in front of goal. They were unable to get the ball to Di Vaio in positions where he could make an impact, and the one chance that did fall the veteran's way was well saved by New England goalkeeper Matt Reis.

The only bright spot on that day was the performance of Argentine Designated Player Hernan Bernadello who was impressive in midfield.

After home defeats against Columbus, Vancouver and New England, there can be no more slip ups. A win against Philadelphia on Saturday would allow the Impact to breathe a little easier. They could even secure their place in the postseason if they win and other results go their way.

The last thing the Impact will want, is to head into the derby match at Toronto FC on the final game of the season needing a win to ensure they make the postseason.

The announcement of Di Vaio's future has certainly lifted a cloud of uncertainty that has been hanging over the Impact for the last few weeks. The Italian forward has been outstanding in his first full season in MLS and is tied for the league lead with 19 goals alongside Chicago's Mike Magee.

It's not just on matchday that Di Vaio has been an important figure. His leadership on and off the field has been superb. He is one of the fittest, hardest working players on the team and certainly didn't arrive in Montreal with an ego. His attitude is an example to the younger players within the squad.

While the Impact won't have to replace Di Vaio next year, they will be losing fellow Italian Alessandro Nesta. The Impact have been lucky to have Nesta as part of their squad for the last 18 months, and as with Di Vaio, Nesta's contribution to the Impact has touched many aspects of the club, way beyond his performances on the field.  Nesta has had an incredible career, and he will bring the curtain down on his playing days at the end of this season. Although the Impact won't be able to call upon the Italian next year, his influence will live on for a long time to come.

You only need to look at the young defence Montreal fielded in LA on Wednesday to see the quality players that are coming through. Karl Ouimette, Wandrille Lefevre, Maxim Tissot started against the Galaxy, and all of them have benefitted from seeing Nesta up close in training every day during his time in Montreal, and also the teaching he has given them. Quite rightly, Montreal will take time pre-game on Saturday to honour the career of Nesta - a true legend of the game.

Montreal Impact against Philadelphia Union is live on MLS on TSN on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET, 11:00 am PT on TSN2.

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman


Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca.

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