Preview: Whitecaps FC continue playoff push against long-time Canadian rival Montreal Impact

Old foes set to renew rivalry Saturday morning at Stade Saputo

VANCOUVER, BC – A pair of long-time rivals are set to renew acquaintances this weekend, as Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10W-10L-8D) visit Montreal Impact (13W-8L-6D) in an important Canadian clash Saturday morning at Stade Saputo. 

Kickoff for Saturday's match between Montreal Impact and Whitecaps FC is set for 11 a.m. PT and is live on TSN and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday’s match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 9 a.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match.

Saturday’s contest will be the first and only Major League Soccer meeting between the Canadian foes this season, although the two sides did do battle in the two-leg Amway Canadian Championship Final in May.

Those two meetings ended in draws, but picking up three points will be a priority for both teams this weekend. With 38 points, the seventh-place ‘Caps are currently in the midst of a wild playoff chase in the Western Conference. They are five points outside of the fifth and final playoff spot, currently held by Cascadia rival Portland Timbers, with six matches remaining.

The Impact, meanwhile, are looking to become the first Canadian club to capture the Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the league’s regular season champion. Seattle Sounders FC are currently in pole position with 49 points, but the Impact aren’t far behind with 45 points to their name.

Last match: San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Whitecaps FC

WHITECAPS FC

This weekend’s Canadian derby will conclude a three-match road swing for Whitecaps FC, in which they fell 3-1 to FC Dallas before playing to a scoreless draw with San Jose Earthquakes September 14 at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Despite missing several key players, including Andy O’Brien, Johnny Leveron, and Russell Teibert, the visiting ‘Caps managed to scrap out an important point to keep them within striking distance of sixth-place Dallas.

In was an encouraging performance against an Earthquakes side now undefeated in 14 straight home matches. Also of note, the ‘Caps enjoyed 56 per cent of possession, which was their second-best road total this season.

With O’Brien and Leveron unavailable, centre back Brad Rusin returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a sprained right ankle August 3 against Portland. Unfortunately for the towering defender, he only lasted 30 minutes before hobbling off the pitch in obvious pain. Rusin will not be available this weekend against Montreal. 

His replacement was Jay DeMerit. The ‘Caps skipper didn’t appear to miss a beat in his first appearance since rupturing his Achilles tendon in Vancouver’s March 2 season opener. In just under an hour of action, he had 11 clearances, two blocks, and completed 17 of 20 passes. 

Earlier in the week, Martin Rennie suggested there's a good chance DeMerit would get the start this weekend. O’Brien and Leveron both made the trip to Montreal and Rennie said they will also be in contention – as will Carlyle Mitchell, who was nominated among the best MLS defenders for Week 29 for his performance against San Jose. 

After missing the last two matches, due to international duty and illness, Teibert also travelled to Montreal and is expected to be available for selection. 

Saturday's contest will be Whitecaps FC's final encounter with an Eastern Conference team this season. They have posted an impressive 6W-2L-1D record in their previous nine out-of-conference matches.

Last MLS match: Montreal Impact 1-2 Columbus Crew

MONTREAL IMPACT

Montreal’s second season in MLS has been one to remember.

With 45 points, they have already set a new record for points by a Canadian club in MLS – eclipsing the total of 43 established by Whitecaps FC last year. The Impact also won their eighth Voyageurs Cup, defeating the 'Caps on aggregate back in May.

The Eastern Canadian outfit are currently second in the Eastern Conference – three points shy of first-place New York Red Bulls and four points behind Supporters’ Shield frontrunners Seattle Sounders FC.

They lost their last MLS outing, however, September 14 against Columbus Crew. Designated Player Marco Di Vaio scored his league-leading 18th goal of the season but it wasn’t enough as Columbus battled back late to claim a 2-1 road victory.

The Impact also lost their last CONCACAF Champions League match 3-0 at the hands of San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday.  

Marco Schallibaum’s side will be looking to bounce back Saturday at Stade Saputo, where they’ve lost just twice this season. Led by Di Vaio, the Impact have also scored more home goals than any other team in the 2013 MLS campaign. The Italian striker has three goals in his last two MLS matches, and seven in his last five.

Canadian midfielder Patrice Bernier is also one to watch. The Brossard, Quebec, native leads the team with eight assists and had a two-goal performance in a 4-2 win over New England Revolution just two weeks ago. 

Schallibaum’s options have been somewhat limited as of late with his two mid-season signings sidelined with injuries. Argentinian Designated Player Hernan Bernerdello (left ankle sprain) and defender Adrian Lopez (torn right ACL) will both be unavailable against Whitecaps FC.

On the other hand, one player who will almost certainly be in the lineup is fullback Jeb Brovsky, who has appeared in all 27 of Montreal’s MLS matches this season. The former Whitecaps FC defender has played 2,340 minutes this season, which is more than any other player on the team aside from goalkeeper Troy Perkins.

ACC Final (May 29, 2013): Whitecaps FC 2-2 Montreal Impact

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The rivalry between Whitecaps FC and Montreal Impact stretches back nearly two decades. Between 1993 and 2013, the two clubs have met on 58 occasions – the majority of those matches coming at the North American second division level.

Most recently, Vancouver and Montreal met in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship Final May 29 at BC Place.

Camilo opened the scoring off an inch-perfect free kick in the fourth minute, but Montreal equalized just after halftime and the two teams traded goals late en route to a thrilling 2-2 draw. As a result, the Impact were crowned champions on aggregate, as the two sides played to a scoreless draw earlier in the month at Stade Saputo.

In league play, Vancouver won the lone meeting against their Canadian rivals on March 10, 2012 at BC Place. Goals from Sebastien Le Toux and Camilo carried Whitecaps FC to a 2-0 victory in Montreal’s MLS debut.

The Impact hold the all-time edge, however, with a 29W-17L-12D record.

NEXT UP

Whitecaps FC return home to BC Place next Saturday, September 28 for an important Western Conference encounter with Real Salt Lake. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. PT. 

Tickets are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.