Columbus, OH – The Montreal Impact have shed the expansion label less than one season into their existence. Well, at least at home.
Montreal has won five straight games, four at home, to enter the playoff chase in the Eastern Conference.
The Impact (12-13-3) have accumulated 33 of their 39 points at home, posting a 10-3-2 record at Olympic Stadium and Stade Saputo.
Now, the challenge is to win on the road. Against a conference foe. In a match that could ultimately determine their postseason fate.
Montreal visits the Columbus Crew (11-8-6) on Saturday in a game featuring two of the hottest teams in MLS. The Crew have won their last three games, and are unbeaten in five straight.
Even on points for sixth place in the conference, both teams will be desperate for a win. Especially Montreal.
The Impact have the most home wins in the league this year, but with just two games remaining in Montreal, it will need to secure points on the road in its four away matches to reach the top five in the table and the playoffs.
Montreal has pieced together a formidable lineup this season, highlighted by Alessandro Nesta in defense and Marco Di Vaio on offense.
With the new players settled into the squad, the Impact have outscored their last five opponents, 12-2, during the win streak. In three of those games, the Impact have not allowed a goal.
Montreal earned its most recent win against D.C. United, which sits fourth in the East, last weekend, 3-0.
"We have to keep going," Di Vaio said, "and try to win as many games as we can down the stretch."
Columbus has also been strong at home this season, securing 24 points at Crew Stadium. And like Montreal, Columbus has changed with the addition of players.
New signings Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain have ignited the offense, and the Crew have scored at least two goals in each of their last four matches. In its last four matches, Columbus has scored 10 goals.
Eddie Gaven scored five minutes into stoppage time Wednesday in a 2-1 road win against the Philadelphia Union and the offensive output has taken the pressure off on the defensive end.
Columbus has been a little shaky defensively, allowing eight goals during its unbeaten run, but Arrieta and Higuain have given the team the belief one goal allowed will not make the difference.
"We know we don't necessarily have to shut anybody out to win anymore," said Josh Williams, who scored against the Union before being sent off. "Federico and Jairo those guys have a lot of energy up there and creating.
"It's contagious and everyone wants to be a part of it."
Columbus and Montreal both want to be a part of the playoffs, and a victory on Saturday will position either side for a place in the top five, as first-place Sporting Kansas City is just eight points away in a tightly-packed race.