The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Former doormats Impact, Chivas, both looking to keep hot streaks alive
MONTREAL - Until last week, a Montreal Impact-Chivas USA matchup might have been a meaningless game between Major League Soccer doormats.
But both clubs have sprung to life of late, with Montreal (3-7-5) coming off a draw and a win and Chivas (4-7-5) posting consecutive 1-0 victories over Salt Lake and San Jose.
Both will be looking to keep their runs alive when they meet Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
"It's never easy on the road," Impact coach Frank Klopas said this week. "There's so much parity in the league, you can't underestimate anyone. It'll be a difficult game.
"If you relax when you get a couple of good results, then you have problems. We're a good team when we work hard and we're focused. We can't forget that."
Anyone underestimating the Goats lately has been badly mistaken.
Red-hot Erick Torres scored the goals in victories last Saturday against Salt Lake and on Wednesday at San Jose, giving Chivas consecutive wins for the first time this season and pulling them out of last place in the West, ahead of San Jose.
The 21-year-old Mexican has 11 goals, one fewer than MLS leader Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls.
The Impact and Chivas have each scored 16 goals and allowed 26 this season, although Montreal has played one fewer game.
Montreal returned from the two-week World Cup break last week with a 0-0 draw in Vancouver with an injury-depleted roster. Then, with midfielders Felipe and Justin Mapp and forward Marco Di Vaio back in the lineup, followed with a 3-0 victory at home on Saturday against the struggling Houston Dynamo.
Striker Jack McInerney scored twice against Houston to give him seven for the season and earn MLS player of the week honours.
"It's good for my confidence," said McInerney, who has nine goals in all competitions since he was acquired in April from Philadelphia for forward Andrew Wenger. "It comes from the team doing well."
The Impact hope to take that new-found confidence with them.
"Two good results and we have the opportunity to go out west again and face a team that has struggled this year also," added McInerney. "It's a big game. We need the three points. We've got to be consistent and keep getting results."
The mood has brightened noticeably in the Impact camp after a gloomy start to the season under Klopas, who replaced Marco Schallibaum in the off-season.
A whirl of player moves has seen Wenger, Collen Warner, Jeb Brovsky and Hernan Bernardello leave and McInerney, midfielders Gorka Larrea and Issey Nakajima-Farran (currently injured), and defender Mamadou (Futty) Danso come in.
They also have Spanish defender Adrian Lopez back from knee surgery. And this week, they announced that Argentine attacking midfielder Ignacio Piatti will join the team in August as a designated player.
Klopas has the option of using Lopez or Danso this week, although he may be loathe to break up the central defence partnership of Matteo Ferrari and Heath Pearce that has been solid the last two games.
The moves have given the Impact extra depth, which they will need when CONCACAF Champions League play begins in August.
"We're disappointed with the start of our season, but we feel we can turn it around," said sporting director Nick De Santis. "Whether it be winning the Canadian championship, which was one of our objectives, or beating Houston, there are glimpses of positive things.
"We feel with the addition of a couple of players, with players coming back from injury and with Piatti coming in, that the team's going to keep growing. I truly believe that. We have to understand that a new coach is in place and his identity and philosophy of play takes time as well."
Klopas doesn't hesitate to use the team's young, local products, particularly Maxim Tissot who started the last two games on the left side of midfield. The team added another homegrown player from its academy this week in midfielder Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare.
The Impact are starting a stretch that sees them on the road for three of the next four games. They are back home next week against Kansas City, which will mark the midpoint of their 34-game league schedule, then travel to Columbus and Salt Lake.
The schedule for CONCACAF play released Friday has the Impact at home Aug. 5 against Club Deportivo FAS of El Salvador and at San Salvador on Aug. 20. They complete Group C play at home Sept. 17 against the Red Bulls and Oct. 22 in New York.
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