Revolution coach Jay Heaps is hoping his defenders have their heads on a swivel, so to speak, with the high-powered Montreal Impact on tap for Sunday's game in Foxborough.
Not only do the Impact have the best offense in the conference (41 goals), but they have one of the most potent weapons at their disposal in golden boot frontrunner Marco Di Vaio, whose tendency to toe the high line has helped him accumulate a league-high 15 goals.
“It’s definitely difficult because he plays that line so well,” Heaps told the media on Wednesday. “He’ll be offside five times and (then) it takes one chance (for him) to be just onside, timing it perfectly. He’s made a career out of it.”
No question the biggest challenge the Revolution face on Sunday is bottling up Di Vaio. But it’s not just the savvy Italian international they’ll have to concentrate on.
The Montreal midfield features a trio of talented, attack-minded players in Patrice Bernier, Justin Mapp and Felipe Martins. All three have registered seven assists each, and their combined efforts have allowed Di Vaio to chase down plenty of long balls on his way to goal.
“He always tries to play that high line and look for balls over the top, which is something that their team does really well,” Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis told the media on Wednesday.
Another thing that’s put Montreal into a three-way tie for first place is their precision. With a conference-high 79.7 passing accuracy percentage, the instinctive Impact don’t give the ball away very often.
As good they’ve been this season, Montreal is a markedly different side on the road. While no club in MLS has a winning record on the road, the Impact have been a shadow of themselves away from Stade Saputo, sporting a 3-6-3 road record. Worse, they haven’t won a road tilt in more than three months (June 1 at Kansas City).
But even though Montreal’s diminished road form has been well-documented, Revolution center back Jose Goncalves doesn’t believe that they’re any less dangerous, especially with a tight postseason race raising the stakes.
“It’s a team with a lot of experience at the back and up front,” Goncalves told the media on Wednesday. “And (they have) a player who can score at any time, and we just need to be focused.”
The Revolution’s ability to remain focused and ready for the challenge Di Vaio and his teammates present will no doubt be paramount, especially with the always dangerous Juan Agudelo listed as “out” due to a hamstring strain. Without Agudelo, the Revolution are 3-4-1, and lack the punch that the 20-year-old striker provides on a regular basis.
With that in mind, it’ll be crucial for the Revolution to set the defensive tempo early, and disrupt the Impact attack at every opportunity. They’ll have to keep Di Vaio on their radar and limit the chances his midfielders get to send their striker to the races.
“We’ll have to pay attention to that,” Reis said. “Hopefully, we’ll be making them chase us more than we’ll have to worry about them.”