The Montreal Impact will travel to take on the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Sunday in an Eastern Conference futility battle. The Impact will enter the match in 10th place in the East on 24 points while the Fire enter one spot above them with 32 points. The Impact were eliminated from playoff contention more than two weeks ago while the Fire need a win to stay mathematically eligible.
It has been a disappointing season for Montreal. They are still one of the best supported teams in the league, but have been unable to build on their great 2013 season. The reigning Canadian Cup champions were in the playoffs at the end of 2013, but have won only six matches this season. Montreal enter this match off a 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew, and with just four points from their last five matches.
It has been a disappointing season for Chicago as well. While not mathematically eliminated from MLS Cup Playoff contention, they would need for the four sides above them to pick up almost no points while winning out themselves to make the postseason.
Missing reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee for the majority of the season in addition to key defenders missing stretches of the season can really be looked at as the cause. They nearly picked up Jermaine Jones in the random draw but lost out to New England. That random draw really symbolized their season. It's been a season of almost. In their last match, a 1-1 draw at Philadelphia Union, they set the MLS record for most draws in a season with 17.
Looking forward to tomorrow's match, Fire striker Robbie Earnshaw and midfielder Razvan Cocis are both out. Earnshaw is out with a hamstring injury largely believed to have occurred while he was celebrating his equalizer on Thursday night in Philadelphia while Cocis is out with the facial fracture that forced him off prematurely last week at Houston Dynamo.
Meanwhile for the Impact, the impending retirement of club great Marco di Vaio. The former Genoa, Bologna, Juventus and Italy man has given some great moments to the Montreal side, particularly last season when he scored 20 goals. Di Vaio will likely be given a nice reception from the Fire faithful, and it's the least that one of the best players to grace MLS deserves.
Predicted starting XIs:
Chicago Fire: Johnson, Palmer, Soumare, Larentowicz, Segares, Watson, Ward, Shipp, Nyassi, Sinama-Pongolle, Amarikwa
Montreal Impact: Bush, Camara, Pearce, Gagnon-Lapare, Ferrari, Romero, Mallace, Duka, Martins, McInerney, di Vaio
Prediction: 2-1 Chicago. A goal comes from di Vaio who wants to go out in style, but the desperation from Chicago proves enough to get the victory. Goals from Amarikwa and Larentowicz, who scores a true captain's goal to lead from the front.