MLS Preview: Midweek matches for Chicago, Montreal set tone for weekend tie

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It’s easy to look at a league season on its own, with fixture lists omitting other fixtures and rewards only counting for the league table.

As Montreal and Chicago are about to find out, a season is a timeline, with every competition having an effect on the rest.

The Montreal Impact have just six points from their last seven league matches, but their CONCACAF Champions League match with San Jose midweek wasn’t polished but their 1-0 escape put the Impact atop their group and can provide some good feelings as league play continues.

Not so much for Chicago – it’s completely the opposite.

Since losing three straight MLS matches in the beginning of May, the Fire have picked up 21 points in 11 games, bringing them back into the playoff hunt.  Unfortunately, they fell flat midweek to a slowly improving D.C. United squad in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal, a competition which Chicago always put a large amount of work into.

Montreal manager Marco Schallibaum knows the effect the 2-0 Cup loss for Chicago could have on this weekend’s match. “The fact that they’ve lost, that they had the opportunity to reach the final and that they missed it, it will have angered them” said Schallibaum.

The Impact coach was happy about his club’s recent victory outside of league play, but knows they need consistency because the wishy washy form is taxing mentally. “This morning, I also asked for that stability we had at the beginning of the season,” Schällibaum said. “We can’t go up and down all the time. We need the points from this game, which is very important and requires defensive sturdiness.”

The key for Montreal – and Chicago – will be the play of Mike Magee.  The in-form Chicago native has blasted in 11 goals in 14 matches since joining the Fire in April – perfectly coincided with their points surge.  He’s scored in three-straight MLS matches, and needs one more to match his four-game streak from when he was first acquired.

Fittingly enough, Thursday was Magee’s first U.S. Open Cup match with Chicago out of the four he’s played that he didn’t score – and they lost.

Despite the midweek results, Chicago are still one of the hot teams in Major League Soccer, while Montreal is slipping. Wins for either side would be major steps forward, but a loss could open a rather serious wound.

No points taken could see the Impact drop down to the final playoff spot, while the same result for Chicago could potentially make it an 8-point gap between them and the 5th position in the East, largely nullifying all their success since May. Expect a tight contest, but given the risks associated with losing, a draw would be acceptable for either side.

Impact midfielder Davy Arnaud summed up what both clubs are experiencing recently in a relatively defensible statement. “It’s hard to win 34 straight games.”

Really?  Who would have thought.