Come the 2:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday at Stade Saputo in Montreal, chances are the Revolution and the Impact will remember their Sept. 8 matchup.
For New England, it was a frustrating 4-2 loss. Goalie Matt Reis took a controversial red card in the fifth minute, leaving New England down a man, keeper Bobby Shuttleworth in net for the remainder, and Impact forward Marco Di Vaio burning the Revolution defense for a pair of goals.
For the Impact, it was the last time they won in MLS play.
“Last time we played them, we were down a man and still creating chances,” said midfielder Lee Nguyen. “We’re now going in with an even-level playing field. I think it’ll be a lot easier for us.”
As has been the norm of late, this contest has significant standings implications. The seventh-place Revolution (11-11-9) have 42 points, three behind the fifth and final playoff spot occupied by Philadelphia, and just five points separate fourth-place Montreal and eighth-place Columbus.
The team has been in a weekly grind for postseason positioning, so the idea that the three points up for grabs this week is not anything unusual.
“We keep bringing it up because it’s true,” coach Jay Heaps said. “Unfortunately we’ve left points on the table, and now we’re in a situation where we have to go to Montreal and get [points].”
Although Montreal (13-10-7) has not won much of late, Di Vaio is having a much better season than his five-goal campaign last season, his first in MLS. The 5-foot-11-inch, 172-pound Rome native has a league-high 19 goals — five game-winners — accounting for over 40 percent of the team’s 48 tallies.
New England’s defensive corps tasked with limiting the dangerous striker, however, is wary of an imbalanced plan of attack.
“We cannot focus on one man,” said defender Jose Goncalves. “Marco Di Vaio needs someone to give him the ball, so if we can close it out and not give him any chance or any space to give him the ball, I think it’s a good thing . . . We showed our last game [against Montreal] with one man down we can do well, so we will continue to do the same.”
The Impact also boast reliable goalkeeper Troy Perkins. Perkins has started every game this season while posting a 1.50 goals-against average and .690 save percentage, both of which rank in middle of the pack among regulars.
The Revolution are coming off a 2-2 draw with the Eastern Conference-leading New York Red Bulls last weekend. New England took a 2-1 lead in the 91st minute with Diego Fagundez’s team-high 12th goal, but after a late red card left them down a man, New York tied it on the last kick of the game. Two points, seemingly in the bag, gone in the blink of an eye.
And so the Revolution head into a rematch with the Impact, albeit with some factors different from the last time. Montreal has a few of its then-injured players back, Heaps noted, and he expects New England’s personnel to also be a tad different.
“Hopefully we’ll have 11 men a little bit longer,” Heaps said.Tim Healey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.