Bridgeview, IL – The Chicago Fire and Montreal Impact do not have a great deal in common heading into their meeting at Toyota Park on Saturday.
Chicago claimed an MLS Cup title in its inaugural season (1998) while Montreal failed to even qualify for the playoffs in its debut campaign in the league last term.
But the Canadian club's sophomore effort has brought about more fortune as the Impact have enjoyed a position within the top-three of the Eastern Conference for much of the season. They come into the weekend in third place on 35 points, seven points better than the Fire, who sit outside the playoff picture.
One thing that the two sides do have in common, though, is that they have both tasted defeat to a struggling D.C. United side within the last week.
Montreal suffered a humiliating 3-1 loss at RFK Stadium last Saturday, leaving the club with just one win from its last seven league contests.
"Winning on the road is a hard thing," Impact head coach Marco Schallibaum said after the match. "Especially in the first half, we concede the first against a team that has endured bad results. Then we scored to make it 1-1, but as a phase we should not have conceded the second one. It was at the wrong time and then it was difficult to come back."
Montreal's once stout defense has become a liability in recent weeks; the Impact have conceded three or more goals in four of its last seven games.
"We have to be mentally tougher, it's as simple as that," said Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins. "We've got to be stronger and we can't have these kind of lapses. And when we do, we have to be able to get through it."
The Impact were able to bounce back and pick up a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in CONCACAF Champions League play on Wednesday, but the Fire were not quite as lucky in their respective midweek venture.
After earning an impressive 2-1 road win over the Philadelphia Union in MLS regular season action at the weekend, Chicago hosted D.C. in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal matchup only to bounced from the competition by a 2-0 loss.
"I don't think the team was that different but it's a tough loss," head coach Frank Klopas said after the match. "Obviously, a great opportunity at home Wednesday night playing at home, the fan support was fantastic. Sometimes it's one of those games where those little things don't go our way. Obviously the goals given up late and then the start ... but we pushed and we had some chances that didn't go in but what are you going to do.
"Definitely it's going to hurt us tonight and for tomorrow we have to regroup and now really focus on the league because we're right there and some big games are coming up to put ourselves in a spot in the playoffs."
And with such a quick turnaround, the Fire must press the reset button quickly in order to be mentally prepared for a tough test against the Impact.
"We were pretty excited to come out today to try and get a win and go on to the final," said defender Gonzalo Segares. "Unfortunately, it didn't happen and now we have to turn around, lift up our heads and tomorrow get ready for Montreal. We are still in the hunt for the playoffs and we have a key game on Saturday on short rest and we have to be mentally ready for sure."