Major League Soccer

Impact-Dynamo Preview

After a poor start cost them a playoff berth last season, the Montreal Impact are determined to avoid a repeat.

While the Impact visit the Houston Dynamo on Saturday aiming to begin 2019 with a second straight victory, their opponent seeks to refocus after a deflating defeat in the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Dynamo are in the midst of a grueling 15-day stretch in which they'll play four times after advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals, creating a dilemma for coach Wilmer Cabrera as he attempts to keep players fresh while simultaneously trying to maintain a level of competitiveness in each match.

Cabrera appeared to have the found the right strategy as Houston played Tigres to a scoreless draw deep into Tuesday's first leg of the Champions League quarters, but the Liga MX side scored twice within three minutes to hand the Dynamo a difficult 2-0 defeat.

With Houston's chances for advancement slim as it heads to Mexico for this Tuesday's second leg, the attention could now shift to an MLS season it began with last Saturday's 1-1 draw at home to Real Salt Lake.

"We need to think about Saturday right now," Cabrera said after Tuesday's loss. "It's our second MLS game of the season, it's at home and we need to win."

Not surprisingly, the Dynamo enter this match with a few injury concerns as midfielders Juan Cabezas (quadriceps) and Tomas Martinez (undisclosed) and defender Kiki Struna (illness) all sat out against Tigres. Additionally, reserve striker Ronaldo Pena will serve the last of a two-game suspension for a red card in the 2018 finale.

The Impact come in healthy and in great spirits after overcoming an early deficit to win last Saturday's opener at San Jose by a 2-1 score. The victory comes off a strong finish to 2018 in which Montreal went 10-5-4 from June 13, with its 1.79 points per game during that stretch fifth-best in MLS.

Montreal still finished four points out of a playoff spot after losing 10 of its first 13 matches in coach Remi Garde's debut.

"We're stronger mentally this year," midfielder Saphir Taider, who scored the tiebreaking goal in the 44th minute against the Earthquakes, told the Impact's official site. "We learned from the mistakes made last year and of course we know each other a little better. It has fortified and solidified this group."

The Impact next vies for an elusive first win at BBVA Compass Stadium, a venue where they've had major problems in the past. They've been outscored 18-4 while going 0-7-1 in eight overall visits.

The match could feature two of the league's premier scorers in Houston's Mauro Manotas and Montreal's Ignacio Piatti, both of whom had goals in Week 1. Manotas, whose 19 goals in 2018 tied for fourth in MLS, has three in four matches across all competitions this season but played 87 minutes in Tuesday's loss.

Updated March 8, 2019

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