Montreal Impact coach Jesse Marsch feels his current club somewhat resembles the 1998 Chicago Fire team he helped lead to the MLS Cup title during his playing days.
The road-challenged Impact will likely need a championship-worthy effort Saturday night if they hope to keep up with the surging Fire, who are seeking their longest home winning streak in MLS play in nearly nine years.
Seventh-place Montreal (12-14-3) sits outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture but just three points behind Columbus for the fifth and final postseason berth. Having experienced what it takes to win it all with Chicago, where he played for eight seasons, Marsch believes his team could prove dangerous down the stretch.
“Things came together a little quicker then, but there are some similarities in the two teams in how they were built,” Marsch told the Impact’s official website. “I use some of my experiences from that time here in terms of how we move things along. … Each team you’re a part of, you try to take the successful ingredients and implement them here.
“… Hopefully, the ending will be the same.”
Montreal hasn’t played since Sept. 1, when it had a season-best five-game winning streak snapped with a 2-1 loss at Columbus. Marco Di Vaio gave the Impact the lead in the 73rd minute but they couldn’t hold on, allowing the game-winning goal in the third minute of stoppage time.
“When you lose a game like this, it’s always tough,” said goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who had allowed one goal over his first three starts - all wins - after being acquired from Portland.
“… Now, the next five games are extremely important for us. We have to come out firing on all cylinders.”
Though Montreal has proven plenty formidable at home, it has been outscored 28-12 in going 2-11-1 on the road.
Chicago (14-8-5), meanwhile, has surrendered nine goals in going 8-1-0 on its own field over the last four months.
The Fire now look to win five consecutive MLS home games for the first time since Oct. 4-Nov. 14, 2003.
They have won five of six overall and moved into sole possession of second place in the East with Wednesday’s 2-1 victory at Toronto.
“It is very good that the team is playing really well right now,” said midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, who scored his first goal of the season. “We have a lot of motivation and right now we have another game and must keep going forward and win as we keep getting closer to the playoffs.”
While the Fire appear to have an edge Saturday given their recent efforts at Toyota Park, they aren’t taking this matchup lightly.
“It’s coming down to the end,” coach Frank Klopas told the team’s official website. ” … We have to regroup and get ready for another tough game on Saturday against Montreal at home.”
Chicago opened its season with a 1-all draw in Montreal on March 17 in these teams’ only meeting.