The Montreal Impact are hoping to put a crushing home loss behind them with a rare away win when they face Minnesota United on Saturday night.
The Impact (3-9-0) and Minnesota (4-7-1) have both been bad on attack with only 14 goals scored this season and weak on defence, where the Impact have conceded a league-worst 27 goals and the Loons have surrendered 22.
Montreal has lost three games in a row, all by shutout. The latest was a 1-0 defeat at home to Los Angeles despite playing up one man after Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off in the 41st minute.
“It’s good to have a game right away,” said midfielder Samuel Piette. “We have the chance to do a good performance and change the atmosphere in the group, and for the fans as well.
“I don’t really know Minnesota, but if you look at the standings they are more or less like us, so it’s a really winnable game for us.”
After losing seven of their last eight games, the Impact sit 10th in the MLS Eastern Conference, one point ahead of last-place D.C. United, who has three games in hand.
Their central defence has been plagued with injuries so that they’ve had little cohesion on the back line. In their last outing they played without a natural centreback, using leftback Jukka Raitala and midfielder Marco Donadel in the middle.
This time they should have Rudy Camacho back from injury but Rod Fanni, who resumed training with his teammates this week, is not fully recovered from a hamstring problem and likely won’t be used on TFC Bank Stadium’s artificial turf.
Of equal concern of late has been the attack. Opponents have learned that crowding out Ignacio (Nacho) Piatti, who has either scored or assisted on 11 of their 14 goals, pretty much shuts down an offence that has lacked a second consistent scoring threat.
“Any team that sees us wants to make sure they limit Nacho’s touches and that’s great,” said leftback Daniel Lovitz, who will return from a one-game suspension. “I see guys moving to cover him and I think it opens up some really interesting things for players like myself and other guys to drift into that space they vacate.
“While he’s struggling to get off opportunities because teams are putting more players on him, the onus is on the other guys around him to be more dynamic.”
Coach Remi Garde cited a lack of confidence in his attacking group that needs to be overcome. There will be no reinforcements until the summer transfer window opens July 10.
“We don’t want to use the word desperation, but if we want to get things going the way we anticipated, we need to get moving fast,” said Lovitz, whose club is 1-6-0 on the road. “In games like this one against Minnesota, we need to go in with every intention of winning.
“The luxury of going to away games and settling for a point is no longer on our plate.”
Minnesota is winless in its last three games but is coming off an encouraging 1-1 draw with Western Conference-leading Kansas City.
The Loons also have an Impact-killer in forward Darwin Quintero, who scored twice for Santos Laguna to beat Montreal in a 2009 CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final and was part of a Club America squad that topped the Impact in the 2015 Champions League final.
In the first meeting of the teams last Sept. 16, expansion Minnesota pulled out a 3-2 win on an 89th minute goal from Abu Danladi.
“That seems fresh in my mind, so this is an opportunity to go there and not hold back,” said Lovitz.