The Montreal Impact are running out of time to solve their late-match issues and face a quick turnaround to revive their flagging playoff chances Wednesday night when they host the Vancouver Whitecaps in Wilmer Cabrera’s first home match in charge.
Cabrera was given a daunting challenge to win his first match with the Impact – trying to take three points at Toronto FC on Saturday in the 401 Derby. Bojan Krkic raised hopes for such a result with a long-range strike four minutes after halftime, but the breakdowns that have taken place throughout Montreal’s four-match winless streak that cost Remi Garde cropped up in Cabrera’s debut, with the Impact (10-14-4) conceding the go-ahead goal in the 81st minute of a 2-1 loss.
“We’re disappointed with the result, because we didn’t come here to lose,” Cabrera told the club’s official website. “We had a plan and it was working, but we have to play the game for 90 minutes. I think we did a lot of positive things throughout the game that we need to use more down this final stretch.”
Montreal slipped out of the playoff spots and into eighth in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Toronto FC. If the Impact fail to reach the postseason, they will look back at their last three matches as the primary reasons, having thrown away five points in those matches by conceding four goals in the 81st minute or later in that stretch.
“We’re disappointed, because we’re losing games on small details,” Krkic said after scoring his first goal for Montreal. “Last week, it was about set pieces. I think we need to remain strong because we’re giving everything and we’re playing good games, but we need to stay solid until the end and play 90 minutes.”
The Impact do play five of their final six contests at home and are opening a four-game run at Stade Saputo with this match. Montreal is 1-7-1 in its last nine overall and 1-1-2 in its last four at home.
The playoffs appear out of reach for Vancouver (6-13-9), which is last in the Western Conference on 27 points and 13 out of the seventh and final spot. The Whitecaps were denied back-to-back wins for just the second time all season in Saturday’s 3-1 loss at San Jose, though keeper Maxime Crepeau could absolve himself from blame.
That is because he finished with a single-game MLS record 16 saves, with the Earthquakes’ onslaught starting immediately after Jake Nerwinski staked Vancouver to a lead in the sixth minute. San Jose put 19 of its single game-record 43 shots on target as Crepeau bettered the mark of 15 saves established by Tony Meola in 1997 with the MetroStars.
“I think it’s every game that we’re facing a team that’s attacking us, and we’re dropping a little bit too low, and we’re a little bit too passive in our last third. And teams like San Jose … they crash the net every time they have a chance,” Crepeau told The Province about the discrepancy in shots.
The keeper, though, is hoping for better things in a return to Montreal and near his hometown in Greenfield Park. Crepeau, who broke into MLS with the Impact in 2017 and joined the Whitecaps in a trade last December, will try to lead Vancouver to a third straight win over the Impact.
“I’d be lying if I said it was just another game … it’s family, friends there, and it’s always a special moment when a player who is born somewhere goes back to play against his former team,” Crepeau said. “It’s nice to see family and friends, but once it goes on the pitch, it’s all business.”
(Maxime Crepeau photo courtesy Kelley L. Cox/USA TODAY Sports)