The Montreal Impact, winners of five straight matches dating back to the regular season, are peaking at the right time in their quest to make their first ever trip to the Eastern Conference Championship when they travel to MAPFRE Stadium this Sunday at 5 p.m. ET (ESPN, TSN1, RDS1). Club captain and Quebec native Patrice Bernier has been revitalized in the playoffs, notching a goal and an assist in the Knockout Round victory over Toronto FC and scoring the equalizer Sunday night in the club’s 2-1 win over Crew SC. During the five-match winning streak, Argentinian playmaker Ignacio Piatti has chipped in with two goals and three assists, while talisman Didier Drogba has banged in four goals, including 12 goals in 13 overall games with the Impact. Mid-season acquisition and Costa Rican international Johan Venegas showed off his classy finishing, and the sheer audacity to ignore a wide-open Drogba, to score the game-winning goal during leg one against Columbus. Interim head coach Mauro Biello has not seemed out of place since taking over for former coach Frank Klopas. Dating back to their head coaching change on August 30, Biello has coached the Impact to a 9-2-2 record, including the playoffs.
Columbus will be looking to advance to their first Eastern Conference Championship since 2008, the only time Crew SC has ever won MLS Cup. A number of players have stood out while playing at their friendly confines of MAPFRE Stadium. Standout winger Ethan Finlay, coming off a career year of 12 goals and 13 assists, has notched nine goals and nine assists in 17 games at home this season. After Kei Kamara left Sporting KC in 2013 to play abroad in England, the MVP candidate has returned to MLS in impressive fashion finishing runner-up in the Audi Golden Boot race with 22 goals scored on the season. The Sierra Leone international finished tied for second in goals scored at home in MLS with 13 goals scored in 15 games, behind LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane (15 goals). Designated Player Federico Higuain will be hoping to win his first ever playoff match as a member of Crew SC. The Argentinian playmaker tied a career-high of nine assists during the regular season and scored Crew SC’s all-important away goal last week at Stade Saputo.