Perhaps it will take a midweek trip to the west coast for the Montreal Impact to find their game.
The Impact are in a tailspin as they prepare to face the Galaxy in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
The team that dominated Major League Soccer with a 9-3-2 record in the first four months has gone 4-8-5 since then. Now they are fighting just to stay in a playoff spot with three games left in the regular season.
A 1-0 setback to the New England Revolution at Saputo Stadium on Saturday left them winless in their last five games, including three losses at home and three shutout defeats.
“At this moment it doesn’t matter what formation we play, we have to put all we have into it,” midfielder Felipe Martins said. “We have three games left.
“In the last five, we didn’t play like we played before, so something has to change. We have to get back to where we were before.”
Against the Revolution, the Impact looked old and slow, generating few quality chances on attack.
For Felipe, the Brazilian who likes to go by one name, a livelier performance is needed to get back to what worked so well before.
“We have to move more,” he said. “The other teams know how we play now.
“They come here, they sit back. So we have to be like we were before. Keep moving. Move the ball quickly and try to find space. This is how we played (the first) half of the season.”
Coach Marco Schallibaum has decisions to make on whether to save some veterans for a more important Eastern Conference match at home Saturday against the sixth-place Philadelphia Union.
The Union and the Chicago Fire have caught up to Montreal’s 46 points, but the Impact retained fourth place because they have played one fewer game. The top five in each conference make the post-season.
Two decisions were made for the coach against New England, as both central defender Matteo Ferrari and midfielder Davy Arnaud drew their fifth yellow card and will be suspended one match.
Fullback Hassoun Camara will return after serving a one-game ban.
The question is whether Schallibaum will rest his 37-year-olds, striker Marco Di Vaio and centre back Alessandro Nesta. Midfielders Patrice Bernier (hip), who was clearly off form against New England, and Justin Mapp (groin) may also need a break.
But resting that many starters makes beating the defending MLS champions at home a daunting task, even if the Galaxy will likely be without their top two weapons in Landon Donovan (ankle) and Robbie Keane, who has been kept by the Republic of Ireland for a World Cup qualifier Tuesday against Kazakhstan.
“I don’t think we have the luxury of doing that,” said Arnaud. “It’s very tight.
“Obviously next Saturday is a huge game because it’s a six-point game with Philadelphia, but Wednesday’s game is an opportunity to pick up points.”
Fresh legs could also counter some of the psychological effects of the New England loss. The team had spoken all week about the importance of winning, then turned in a tepid performance.
“We didn’t respond,” Arnaud said of the defeat. “There’s no other way of saying it.
“You can’t sugar coat it and make it something it’s not. We’ll have to think about that as players.”
Options for the Impact include using younger, quicker players like forward Andrew Wenger and midfielder Blake Smith.
“We have to try to get all three points,” said Schallibaum, who doesn’t release his lineup until an hour before a game. “They are looking for points as well, so it won’t be easy.
“We lost, but we have to get back up.”
Impact academy graduate Maxim Tissot filled in for injured left back Jeb Brovsky against New England and will likely play again. Another academy grad, Wandrille Lefevre, should take over Ferrari’s spot, while Camara can also play in the middle.
The Galaxy are coming off a bye week and hope to have some of their ailing players back, including midfielder Juninho and centreback Leonardo, two Brazilians who have been out with groin problems. Central defender Omar Gonzalez, defender A.J. DeLaGarza and midfielder Robbie Rogers are also on the mend from injuries.
But Keane, with 15 goals and 11 assists, and Donovan, with 10 goals, are the Galaxy’s offensive motors. Donovan was sent home by the U.S. national team on the weekend with his ankle injury.
They scored two goals each in the Galaxy’s last game, a 5-0 win over lowly Chivas USA that ended a four-game winless run.
The Impact have done well on the west coast this season at 2-1-2 in all competitions, but their last trip went badly as they lost 3-0 in San Jose in the CONCACAF Champions League on Sept. 17.