How things can change in just a few days. Last Saturday afternoon, the Montreal Impact were in third place in the Eastern Conference and just needed a win over lowly Toronto FC to avoid the midweek knockout-round match while the Houston Dynamo were on the outside looking in and needed one of the teams above to slip up. There is a reason they don’t play the matches on paper.
Montreal struggled to a 1-0 defeat and for a while, it looked as though their playoffs dreams would be crushed until the New York Red Bulls threw them a lifeline by defeating Chicago Fire. That Chicago loss opened up the door for Houston who walked right through it by defeating DC United 2-1.
Montreal needs to rediscover the form that had them leading the Eastern Conference during the early part of the season. Right now, Montreal have won just one of their last eight matches, but they should have some confidence in knowing that they have already beaten Houston twice this season; granted those games were both in Montreal.
Houston has been playing fairly well lately, losing only one of their last seven matches, but they have struggled against Montreal this season scoring only once in the three matches between the clubs. This will need to change and it will be up to Will Bruin, Gilles Barnes and Brad Davis to pace the Houston attack.
For Montreal to advance, they will need someone other than Marco Di Vaio to step up offensively. He has scored 20 goals this season and will surely have the eyes of the Houston defense; Di Vaio will need to be the playmaker opening up players like Felipe Martins and Davy Arnaud for scoring chances.
For Houston to advance, the defense is going to need to stay together. In the three matches so far, they have caught Montreal offside 13 times, an aggressive offside tactic will either be the reason they win or the reason they don’t. Look for Ricardo Clark to man-mark Di Vaio when Montreal goes on the attack.
The Montreal Impact travel to the Lone Star State for the Eastern Conference knockout round match against the Houston Dynamo. This match will kick off at 8:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, Oct. 31 and can be seen on the NBC Sports Network.
Prediction: Montreal Impact 2, Houston Dynamo 0.
The biggest factor for both teams will be who can adjust to the field conditions quicker; the Houston area is being pummeled with a rainstorm from now all the way through the match. The groundskeeper will have his work cut out for him to attempt to make this field playable for Thursday night. As for the match, Houston has not fared well against their fellow Eastern Conference postseason squads and I do not think that this is the night they turn it around. It will be a trick for Houston and a treat for Montreal on this Halloween night.