New England suffered a bad injury blow Saturday on what was otherwise a swell afternoon for Jay Heaps’ side, clinging desperately to hopes of bringing post-season soccer back to Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2009.
As of today, Heaps’ bunch is there – although the team’s hold on the fifth and final playoff spot is about as tenuous as it can be.
Still, the Revs do stand above the playoff red line at the moment, fifth for now thanks to a well-deserved 1-0 win at Montreal, a victory that was as gutsy as it was critical. Anything but three points at Stade Saputo would probably have erased the team’s post-season chances for good, especially considering the sudden pileup of injury and suspension.
Jose Goncalves’ second goal this year was the difference, as the Revolution’s most valuable player this year (that’s unofficial – but who is kidding who here?) clinically cleaned up a bit of a mess in the Montreal penalty area. The wily center back was also in command in the back all afternoon, giving Golden Boot leader Marco Di Vaio precious few scoring chances.
Ahead of him, New England’s midfield was mostly in control against an Impact side that lacked much urgency.
Not much at all went right for Marco Schallibaum’s team, in fact; no real connections, little creativity, no looming danger on set pieces and that overall flagging commitment. New England looked like the more desperate team from the opening whistle.
While that’s understandable, somebody had better say something inside the Impact locker room to shake this funk. It’s not entirely implausible that Montreal could miss the playoffs. Next up is a difficult trip to Los Angeles (without center back Matteo Ferrari and captain Davy Arnaud, each of whom collected bookings Saturday.)
After that, the Impact plays at home against Philadelphia in a match that could be for a playoff spot, and then finishes away against Canadian rival Toronto.
Consider that Montreal was a very solid 10-5-5 after 22 rounds. There was talk of a Supporters Shield and chatter about Coach of the Year chances for Schallibaum. Well, none of that is arriving now.
Since then Montreal’s record of 3-6-2 bears all the marks of a sinking ship. Worst of all, Schallibaum’s team has lost three in a row at home, scoring just once in losses to Columbus, Vancouver and New England.
If Montreal does make the playoffs, the club is going the wrong way, getting worse at money time rather than better.
Highlights from Saturday at Stade Saputo: