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Impact still have goals to achieve despite missing playoffs

The Canadian Press

10/26/2012 4:35:40 PM

MONTREAL -- There are consolation prizes still to be had for the Montreal Impact despite missing the Major League Soccer playoffs.

Coach Jesse Marsch's club wants to win the final game of its expansion season over the New England Revolution on Saturday afternoon at Saputo Stadium in order to finish first among the three Canadian-based teams in MLS.

That would give it the top seed for next year's Amway Canadian Championship and, at least theoretically, an easier first-round meeting with Edmonton of the second-tier NASL instead of facing Toronto FC or the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS.

And Montreal hopes to top Vancouver for the most points earned in an MLS season by a Canadian team. The Impact and Whitecaps each have 42 points, with Vancouver ending its season Saturday night on the road at Real Salt Lake. Montreal holds the tiebreaker with 10 more goals scored.

Marsch hopes the Impact can sew up those honours before the Whitecaps game kicks off.

"It would mean I could have a nice dinner with a nice glass of wine and not have to think about it," Marsch said Friday. "But I always watch the games anyway.

"And I'm happy for Vancouver that in their second year (in MLS) they've been able to get in the playoffs. That's always a big accomplishment. It's something we'll certainly be shooting for next year."

The Whitecaps have clinched the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference to become the first Canadian squad to reach the post-season. Toronto FC has missed the playoffs in all six of its MLS campaigns, never garnering more than 39 points (in 2009).

Making it to the post-season is tougher in the East, where Montreal (12-15-6) can only finish seventh.

"We can be pleased with the effort we've had since the start of the year," said Impact captain Davy Arnaud. "We've formed a solid group and we've bought into the ideas the coaching staff tried to get across.

"We've had good results in the second half. If we're in the west, we're in a playoff spot now, but the way the points have worked out, we just miss out. But overall we can be proud of the work we've done."

It will be fan appreciation day at what should be a sold-out stadium, with giveaways of team hats and posters and chances for fans to have photos taken with players.

They will also announce the club's first MLS player of the year, likely to be Patrice Bernier or fellow midfielder Felipe Martins, as voted by fans on the team's website.

"It would be nice to finish in style," said Bernier, whose club is 6-0-1 in its last seven home games.

The Impact will have their best available players on the field to face ninth-place New England (8-17-8), who they beat in each of their two previous meetings this season.

However, they will be without midfielder Sanna Nyassi, who scored a goal in each of those games. The Gambian will serve a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.

The Revolution is 0-11-2 in their last 13 road games and have never won on Canadian soil, going 0-5-3 all-time in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. They are coming off a 1-0 home win over Chicago, however.

Veteran centre back Alessandro Nesta returns after being rested in last week's 0-0 draw in Toronto, which bumps Hassoun Camara to right fullback.

For a second week, midfielder Collin Warner should play on the right flank, with rookie Calum Mallace taking his spot in the centre next to Bernier. Arnaud would move to the left side.

Marco Di Vaio and rookie Andrew Wenger should start at forward.

It may be the final game in the career of 39-year-old striker Eduardo Sebrango, who will dress and may see some late action. It is uncertain if the club will sign him for 2013.

Third-string goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who will not dress, has announced he will retire after the match.

The Impact's season will not entirely be over, as they leave Nov. 5 for a pair of friendly matches in Italy.