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Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (16) awaits the start of play against the Cavalry FC in Vancouver, on July 24, 2019.Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

This is hardly just another game for Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau.

Coming off a record-setting performance, Crépeau will face his former club for the first time when the last-place Vancouver Whitecaps (6-13-9) play the slumping Montreal Impact (10-14-4) in an all-Canadian clash Wednesday night.

Montreal and Vancouver are hard-pressed for victories with just six games remaining in the regular season for both teams.

“Every time you come back home to a former club or your motherland, it’s special because your friends and family are here and will watch,” Crépeau said Tuesday. “I look forward to seeing them in the stands.

“I won’t lie, there’s a feeling of excitement to be back home. But once the whistle blows, you try to be the same person you have been since the beginning of the season. I want to play well at Saputo Stadium but I’m not putting any extra pressure on myself.”

The Greenfield Park, Que., native grew up an Impact fan before the MLS days and watched championship runs from the stands. Current Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos was the Impact coach at the time.

Crépeau joined Montreal’s academy in 2010 and climbed the ranks to the first team. The goalkeeper made his only three starts for Montreal in MLS at the end of the 2017 campaign. He was then loaned to the Ottawa Fury in the USL in 2018 where he established a record of 15 clean sheets.

During the off-season, the Impact went with Evan Bush as its first-team goalkeeper and shipped Crépeau off to Vancouver, where he’s having an impressive season on a team that’s struggling. He ranks third in MLS this season with 98 saves.

The now 25-year-old Crépeau is coming off a record-setting 16-save performance in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. The last-place `Caps, who are 13 points out of the final playoff spot in the West, conceded a staggering 43 shots.

“Max is one of the first young goalkeepers I called when the Impact played in NASL,” said Dos Santos, who coached Montreal from 2009 to 2011. “Already then, he had great qualities. He had so much potential. His season in Ottawa was the most outstanding thing for me. When the opportunity presented itself, it was a no-brainer for me.”

The Impact looked playoff-bound for much of this year until a complete collapse turned the season and organization on its head.

The Impact is winless in four straight games and has one win in the past two months (1-7-1). Those results led to coach Rémi Garde’s dismissal last week. In Wilmer Cabrera’s first match in charge on Saturday, Montreal lost 2-1 to rivals Toronto FC and fell below the playoff line for the first time this season – three points from seventh in the East.

“Every match feels like a final now, starting with tomorrow [Wednesday],” leading Impact scorer Saphir Taider said. “We really have to take the lead and put the pressure on them, especially at home. The fact that we’re eighth in the standings forces us to be more offensive-minded if we hope to get points.

“We don’t really have a choice. We have to win at all costs.”

Partly to blame for Montreal’s recent struggles is the depleted backline.

Victor Cabrera remains sidelined with an elbow injury. Centre back Jukka Raitala did not train with the team this week and will miss Wednesday’s encounter. Rudy Camacho is day-to-day.

Those injuries are on top of the unexpected departure of Zakaria Diallo to French side Lens two weeks ago.

That’s why Montreal signed veteran defender Rod Fanni this week until the end of the season. The 37-year-old played 26 games for the Impact last year but his option for 2019 was not picked up.

“I’m going to do what I know, what I did here last year,” said Fanni, who has not played a professional soccer match in 10 months and will likely not face Vancouver. “Just by watching Impact games this season, I noticed a few things I can bring to this club, especially related to team chemistry, more communication between players, minor fixes.

“And sometimes it’s the smallest changes that make the biggest differences.”

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