MONTREAL — There haven’t been a lot of laughs on the road for the Montreal Impact this season. They need to change that soon if they hope to make the playoffs.
After setbacks at home against Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire, the Impact play five of their final eight regular-season games on the road, where they are 2-5-5. It starts Saturday night against the New England Revolution (9-12-5) in Foxborough, Mass.
It is a key game for both sides, with the Impact (10-10-6) tied for the sixth and final playoff spot with Atlanta, who have played two fewer games. The Revolution are just behind, four points off the pace.
“I see a lot of similarities with the last couple of seasons with this group, and when we’ve had our backs to the wall, we’ve been able to come through,” coach Mauro Biello said Friday. “That’s a positive.
“We’re in a race and we have to outperform the teams that are in front of us.”
The Revolution are an appalling road team, winless in 13 tries this season, but they are an impressive 9-2-2 on the artificial turf at Gillette Stadium. And they are coming off a 4-0 home win over struggling Orlando, when long-time Impact-killer Kei Kamara recorded his first MLS hat trick and Lee Nguyen tied a league record with four assists.
Kamara has seven goals in his last seven games while Teal Bunbury, whose father Alex was Biello’s old teammate with Canada’s national squad and with the defunct Montreal Supra in 1991, has six goals in his last eight.
In the Impact’s favour, they are 3-2-1 all-time at New England despite winning only 16 of 97 regular season away games since joining MLS in 2012.
The most they’ve ever won in a season is four, which they’ve done three times including last year.
“It’s just the dynamic in this league — teams have an edge at home in terms of travel, stadiums, fan base,” said Biello. “All that comes into play.
“But there are some teams that have had success and we need to be that team that’s capable of winning on the road. We’ve shown we can do it in the past and we need to try to do it now down the stretch.”
It won’t be easy. Two of their remaining road games are against first-place Toronto while another is at Colorado, where visitors gasp for air at high altitude. If they are going to get away wins, New England and Atlanta on Sept. 24 are probably the best bets. They won their last road game 3-0 in Philadelphia.
Last week’s loss to Chicago was a painful blow, coming a week after they were outplayed 3-1 at home by TFC. The Impact looked to have the upper hand until defender Deian Boldor, in his MLS debut, was shown the red card for an accidental kick to the shins of German star Bastian Schweinsteiger, who then scored the game’s only goal.
Bolder was replacing defence general Laurent Ciman, who was with Belgium for World Cup qualifiers. Midfielder Blerim Dzemaili was with Switzerland, while midfielder Samuel Piette and striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel played for Canada.
All will be back for the stretch run. Jackson is likely to start in place of Matteo Mancosu, who broke a hand during a gym workout this week and won’t travel with the team.
“We have eight games left and every game is like a final for us,” said Dzemaili, who has six goals and eight assists in 15 games since joining Montreal from Bologna FC in May. “We want to do everything to go to the playoffs.
“I know it will be difficult after our last game, but we still have a chance and we still have to try.”
New England will have two defenders, Jamaican Je-Vaughn Watson and Slovenian Antonio Mlinar Delamea, back from international duty but are missing midfielder Kelyn Rowe to a knee strain.