Getting that first win in Major League Soccer is proving to be elusive for the Montreal Impact, but the expansion club is not letting it get them down.
The Impact are off to an 0-4-1 start and are hoping to get their first win Saturday at home against Toronto FC, which between regular season and CONCACAF Champions League duties will be playing a fifth game in 14 days.
In league play, Toronto is 0-3-0 and is the only team Montreal leads in the Eastern Conference, although TFC has played two games in hand.
“The feeling in the locker-room right now is still positive,” Impact captain Davy Arnaud said Friday. “We know the results haven't been good, but we've played four of our first five games on the road and it's not an easy league to win on the road.
“But the performances have been good and the feeling, the vibe and the confidence is still high for us.”
After drawing nearly 59,000 for their home opener, a 1-1 draw with Chicago, a smaller gathering is expected for Montreal's second match at Olympic Stadium. A spokesman said 20,000 tickets were sold, including about 1,000 to TFC fans. The total should rise with walk-up sales.
Toronto is coming off a 6-2 loss to Santos Laguna in Mexico on Wednesday night that ended the Champions League adventure that had been the team's focus.
In MLS, the Reds have scored only one goal and allowed seven.
The Impact have also found it rough on the road, losing 2-0 in Columbus, 5-2 in New York after leading 2-1 in the first half, and 1-0 at Salt Lake. They surrendered a goal on a penalty kick in each game, which left goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts incredulous.
“I don't think I've faced three penalties in three years and now in three games I've faced three,” said the former Los Angeles Galaxy ‘keeper. “It's tough, but you put it out of your mind.”
The Impact felt the penalty calls in Columbus and New York were harsh, but there was no disputing the hand ball in the area by forward Justin Braun that led to Salt Lake's goal on Wednesday night.
“It's just been a fluky thing,” said defender Tyson Wahl. “It's unfortunate, but part of it too is getting ourselves in bad positions.
“When you get a PK called against you, you've made some mistakes to let them get into that position on the field. So you can't point all the fingers at the officials. We're just looking to turn that around.”
The Impact lead MLS with 80 fouls called against them, 15 more than second-place Philadelphia in that dubious category.
But they are also second in the league in shots with 72, and shots on goal with 27. That's what has kept despair from settling in. They feel they are playing well enough that the victories will come, eventually.
“The morale stayed pretty high,” said Wahl. “We feel we're a good group and we've played well but we've made some bad mistakes and some unfortunate circumstances that have affected our results.
“At the end of the day it's about results, so we have to get our first win Saturday.”
Wahl is expected to move from centre back to his natural position at left back, replacing Josh Gardner.
Coach Jesse Marsch did not announce his starting 11, although it appears Wahl, Matteo Ferrari, Shavar Thomas and Jeb Brovsky will form the back line.
The team's website listed a midfield of Justin Mapp, Felipe, Collen Warner and Lamar Neagle with Arnaud and Braun as forwards.
That leaves midfielder and home town favourite Patrice Bernier out. The Brossard, Que., native, who did not play in Salt Lake, looked angry as he walked past reporters without a word after practice.
The only regular who can speak French to the city's mostly Francophone media generally puts in the most time with the press on the team.
But when asked if Bernier will sit, Marsch said “we're still evaluating that.”
After facing Toronto, the Impact will be on the road for games at Dallas and D.C. United before returning to the Big O against Portland on April 28. Only three of their first 10 games are at home as they await completion of the expansion of their outdoor home, Saputo Stadium, which is expected in June.
It will be a first MLS meeting for two teams destined to become rivals. But Montreal and Toronto have met six times before in Amway (formerly Nutrilite) Canadian Championship play. TFC holds a 5-1 edge.
Forward Eddie Sebrango and defender Hassoun Camara have resumed practising after injuries and may be ready if named to the 18-man game roster.
There was a newcomer at practise in five-foot-seven Nigerian forward John Owoeri, who is on trial. The 25-year-old had a tryout with Columbus earlier this season.