Two of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer will battle for playoff positioning when the Montreal Impact visit the Columbus Crew on Saturday.
The two clubs are tied in the Eastern Conference standings with 39 points apiece and are just two points shy of fourth-place D.C. United and fifth-place Chicago.
The Impact (12-13-3) enter the match on a five-game winning streak, extended last week with a 3-0 victory over D.C. United. Four of those have come in the cozy confines of Saputo Stadium, where Montreal has recorded 10 of its wins.
On the road, however, success has been much harder to come by for the MLS expansion club. In 13 games on opposing pitches, the Impact is just 2-10-1. Still, the team doesn't expect its game plan to differ from what's worked for them at home.
"I don't know if we're going to want to change too much about the way we've been doing things the past month or so. We've had some good results," Impact captain Davy Arnaud said. "Obviously a lot of our wins lately have come at home but we also won a big game on the road last time out against New England. That game is a good model for us in terms of how we want to approach the game."
The Impact, who haven't lost an MLS game since July 21, have outscored their opponents 12-3 during their current run while recording three shutouts.
"Our team's in a place where we feel confident going on the road and getting results," said Impact coach Jesse Marsch. "But we also want to be smart about our overall approach and make sure that we're ready to be organized and disciplined, knowing that if we defensively take care of things that in every game we still manage to find our chances."
Midfielder Patrice Bernier factored into every Impact goal against D.C., scoring twice and assisting on Marco Di Vaio's third of the season. With his pair, Bernier became the first Impact player this season to score twice in one game.
With the season's stretch run in full swing, the Crew (11-8-6) have enjoyed a successful run of their own. The club won its third straight on Wednesday when midfielder Eddie Gaven's stoppage-time goal delivered a 2-1 triumph over Philadelphia. It marked the first time since May 8-23, 2010 (four straight) that the Columbus has won three in a row.
With the win, the Columbus tied the Impact in points and extended its unbeaten streak to five games. It's part of a run that has seen the club go 6-1-2 since July 21.
Like D.C. a week ago, Columbus enters the match in the midst of a busy schedule. Saturday's game will be its fourth in 10 days.
"They've got to figure out how they're going to manage minutes," Marsch said. "We've been there so it's not like we feel sorry for these teams. We have to be prepared for different players and what it might look like and address that but, again, make sure that we have ourselves ready."
The Impact will be facing a Columbus squad that has been strong on its own pitch. The Crew is 7-3-2 at Crew Stadium and has not lost in six straight home matches.
Montreal and Columbus have split the two previous meetings, with each side winning at home.