How are you feeling about D.C. United playing a one-off home game against the Montreal Impact? Thursday’s MLS playoff game between the two sides won’t have the "midweek game" stigma after both clubs rested the majority of their starters. That means that the home field advantage - something that was risked over the weekend, only for Montreal to more or less opt to punt in New England - is a big one for United.
From a form perspective, the Black-and-Red have another edge. The Impact are 3W-3D-6L in their last twelve games, and 2W-1D-3L in their last six. That’s not very impressive at all, especially compared to United’s recent string of results. The capital club’s return over their last twelve outings is 6W-4D-2L, and their more recent results (4W-1D-1L) indicate a team that has been getting hotter as the playoffs approach. Obviously both teams have a loss due partially to sending out so many reserves, but the difference recently has been stark.
There’s also the intangible team mentality angle. Didier Drogba’s refusal to accept a spot on the bench is something of an inscrutable thing to judge from the outside. Is it a reflection of an unhealthy locker room? Or will the rest of the team rally around each other now that they’re free of having to tip-toe around a giant ego? It’s hard to know much without being an Impact player or coach, but it’s not hard to guess that they’d rather have United’s calm, apparently healthy mentality instead. No team wants to enter the playoffs with a major controversy swirling.
On the other hand, Montreal does have one thing United doesn’t: Ignacio Piatti is the best player on either team. He should probably make the MVP shortlist this season, and without him the Impact are arguably no better than, say, Columbus. With him, though, they just have to stay within arm’s reach of an opponent, because Piatti can create and/or score goals without any help. He’s a scheme-breaker who can be a threat on the dribble, as a late-arriving man in the box, or shooting from long range. DC has plenty of strong players, but they don’t have a Piatti.
Previous meetings didn’t illustrate whether one team has a clear edge over the other, and in any case United is a vastly different team from who they were when they met the Impact last.
So, that brings us back to where we started: