The Montreal Impact snuck into the MLS Playoffs this season, coming from behind late against D.C. United on Decision Day. Thierry Henry’s men will be looking to bring this momentum into the play-in round on Friday when they take on a familiar foe in the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium.
Victor Wanyama is unlikely to feature due to the mandatory quarantine period following his return from international duty. Impact captain Samuel Piette will miss the clash, as well, after he was sent off for his reckless tackle on Paul Arriola, leaving Henry without his first-choice midfielders.
The New England Revolution confirmed one player tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday but have yet to confirm his identity. Cristian Penilla is also expected to miss this postseason after undergoing surgery.
The play-in round may be unique to the 2020 season, but both sides will be looking to take full advantage of this format and build some much-needed confidence ahead of the final stretch.
The Revs have the mental edge going into this game, emerging victorious in three out of four encounters against the Impact this season. Henry’s men last beat them in their season opener, all the way back in February.
Player to Watch
The 29-year-old has been the Impact’s difference-maker this season since joining from the Houston Dynamo, offering Henry’s side the dominant presence they sorely lacked in the final third.
Quioto has led the line brilliantly this season, registering seven goals and five assists in 15 appearances. The Honduran stepped up when the Impact needed him most, scoring the winning goal against D.C. United on Decision Day.
Beyond his instinctive finish, Quioto set up both of the Impact’s goals, leading them to their first post-season berth since 2016.
The Impact will need Quioto to be at his best on Friday once again, especially as they head into the clash with a depleted midfield.
The Spaniard has battled injuries all season but appears ready to put his recent struggles behind him. The Revs are a different side with Carles Gil in the lineup, with the 27-year-old dictating proceedings in the middle of the park.
Bruce Arena’s men possess a plethora of scoring options, including Adam Buksa and Teal Bunbury, but often lacked a creative outlet to service them. In fact, out of all the sides that qualified for the MLS Playoffs, only expansion sides Nashville SC and Inter Miami FC have scored fewer goals than the Revs.
Carles Gil can offer some much-needed quality in the final third, linking up play between the midfield and attack. The Revs midfielder will look to make the most of the Impact’s makeshift midfield and propel his side into the next round.
Matchup to watch
ROMELL QUIOTO vs. ANDREW FARRELL and HENRY KESSLER
The Revs are good value to score against a porous Impact rearguard that conceded 43 goals this season, but the game will ultimately be decided in their own final third.
If the Revs can shut down Quioto on Friday, Arena’s men should progress comfortably. The 29-year-old has proven to be a handful for defenses and finished the season in fine form, netting a goal and two assists on Decision Day.
Farrell and Kessler have offered the Revs some much-needed stability at the back this season, but have struggled to deal with Quioto’s physicality in the past. Most recently, the Honduran registered two assists against the Revs and will be hoping for much of the same Friday.
In many ways, the outcome of this matchup can alter the complexion of the game entirely.
The former Barcelona man has grown with confidence as the season has worn on and will be eager to continue his resurgence against the Revolution on Friday.
Bojan has chipped in with four goals this season but the 30-year-old is at his best when tasked with drifting between the lines in a free-roam role. The Spaniard has formed an impressive partnership with Quioto in recent weeks, combining with the Honduran to devastating effect.
Henry’s side is in desperate need of inspiration going into Friday’s clash without Wanyama and Piette in the lineup and will need Bojan to provide the spark.
Buksa did not get off to the start he was hoping for in Major League Soccer, netting six goals in 23 appearances in his debut season. The 24-year-old has since turned it up, forming an intriguing partnership with fellow designated player Gustavo Bou.
The U-21 Poland international has come up big for Arena’s men this season, netting the winner in the Revs’ last encounter with the Impact, as well as scoring a crucial equalizer off the bench against Nashville SC.
Buksa will be eager to show why the Revs were so quick to hand him the DP tag on a more consistent basis. His playoff debut is a great opportunity for the young striker to showcase his talent and begin delivering on his promise.
Bruce Arena heads into Friday’s affair in search of his 34th postseason victory. In fact, no coach in MLS history has won more playoff games than the veteran tactician. Henry sits on the opposite side of the spectrum and will be hoping to kickstart his postseason career with a victory.
Not much separates the two sides despite the contrast in experience on their respective touchlines. The Revs have regularly gotten the best of the Impact this season, but past success does not guarantee future performance, especially in a one-off affair.
The Impact will be hoping for Wanyama’s return, even if at the moment, it seems unlikely. Ultimately, the battle in the middle of the park will decide this one. If the Impact’s makeshift midfield can stifle Carles Gil and co., their chances to progress will be significantly boosted.
Henry’s side has struggled in their own defensive third this season, switching off unnecessarily at times. The Impact can ill afford to do so on Friday, as Bou, Bunbury, and Buksa have what it takes to punish them.
The Impact must avoid conceding an early goal at all costs as they have struggled immensely playing from behind this season. If Henry’s men can keep the score close going into the second half, their unlikely playoff run may just continue. The Revolution enters this clash as the favorites, but as Arena has seen first hand over his long career, anything can happen on Friday.