Skip to main content

Midfielder Saphir Taider believes the Montreal Impact need to win all three of their remaining games this season if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

With the season on the line, Taider says Montreal can’t drop a single point – starting Saturday at home against the Columbus Crew – if the team wants to play playoff soccer in November.

The playoff race in the Eastern Conference is effectively down to two teams – Montreal (12-15-4) and D.C. United (10-11-8). Montreal is sixth in the East with a two-point lead over D.C., which has two games in hand. A 5-0 defeat to United last week has seriously hurt Montreal’s playoff chances.

Open this photo in gallery:

Montreal Impact forward Quincy Amarikwa (30) dribbles the ball as D.C. United midfielder Russell Canouse and D.C. United defender Kevin Ellis defend in the second half at Audi Field.Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Fifth-place Philadelphia (14-12-5) and fourth-place Columbus (13-9-9) are all but guaranteed a postseason berth, barring a collapse in the next three weeks.

“The end of the season is approaching, so we’re obviously a little nervous,” Taider, one of Montreal’s designated players, said on Thursday. “And because we need to win, it’s a stressful time. But we need to take that stress and turn it into something positive.

“We have to play with that feeling and try to win those three games. If we don’t, we’ll be filled with regret at the end of the season. It’s up to us to show what we can do, starting this weekend against Columbus.

“We have to win this weekend and the other two games too, just to have a chance to make the playoffs.”

Everything changed for the Impact last week when they suffered their worst defeat since joining Major League Soccer in 2012. D.C. United scored four second-half goals – two each from Paul Arriola and former England international Wayne Rooney – to snap Montreal’s three-game unbeaten run.

The Impact had several chances to equalize in the first half after Luciano Acosta’s 17th minute opener, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Then the visitors collapsed in the second half, unable to stop D.C. United’s counterattack.

“That was a big letdown,” veteran defender Bacary Sagna said. “We were playing well. We were consistent. We were imposing ourselves at home and on the road. That dynamic was broken after the loss, especially by that score. We have to stay concentrated and end this season well. We want to win all our remaining games to remain in sixth place, or even climb into fifth.”

Montreal could have to face Columbus without Ignacio (Nacho) Piatti, its top scorer and playmaker. The Argentine midfielder suffered a thigh injury in last week’s crushing defeat. He was at practice this week but did not train with his teammates.

Piatti leads the Impact with 13 goals, 13 assists and 83 shots. He has six career goals versus the Crew.

“It will be hard without Nacho,” Alejandro Silva said. “He’s such an important part of this team. If ever he’s not playing, we need to do our best without him. We’re going to have to light some candles for him.”

Added coach Remi Garde: “He’s doing better. We’ll wait until game day to see if he’s playing. He’s very motivated to play, like always. So there’s hope.”

Montreal will need to learn from the loss in D.C. and be tighter defensively against a skilled and balanced Crew side, who are 2-1-3 in their past six games.

Gyasi Zardes leads Columbus with 16 goals this season, though he’s only scored once in his past five. Zardes scored twice, including the stoppage-time winner, when the Crew defeated Montreal 3-2 in the second game of the season on March 10.

“They have talent everywhere on that team,” Garde said. “They have a strong midfield with very talented wingers. They’re not in a playoff position by accident. They’re ahead of us in the standings because they’re better than us, there’s no doubt about that. But if we play at our highest level, we can compete with them.”

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe