MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact may not be mathematically eliminated from MLS playoff contention, but it seems coach Mauro Biello is already closing the book on this season and looking ahead to next year.
Biello says he wants to use Montreal’s remaining three games, starting Saturday at the Colorado Rapids, to determine who deserves a spot on the team going forward.
"Now players are playing for themselves, for their jobs," said Biello after Wednesday’s 1-0 loss against New York City FC at Saputo Stadium. "That’s what’s important now. Guys who want to stay here, guys who want to play for this team, will have to give it their all."
It would take something of a miracle for the Impact (11-14-6), who have lost six of their last seven games, to reach the post-season for the third consecutive year. Biello’s men are four points out of a playoff spot behind the sixth-place New York Red Bulls, who have a game in hand.
After Colorado, Montreal plays Toronto on the road and then New England at home.
The Impact were in the thick of the playoff race at the end of August following a four-game winning streak. But since then the Canadian club has played some of its most dysfunctional soccer of the year.
With the season on the line for several weeks now, Montreal has often looked uninspired and dispassionate on the pitch.
Captain Patrice Bernier, who is set to retire at the end of the season, called the team "lifeless" after its latest home defeat.
"If some guys have given up already, they need to speak up," he said. "We’re better off playing with players who want to fight until the end. We’re going to Colorado, and Mauro has to play the guys that he thinks can win it for us and perform."
Montreal’s offence, once its biggest asset, has been nowhere to be found recently.
The team has scored eight goals in its last seven games, with five of those coming in an unexpected 5-3 win in Toronto last week. The Impact have been shut out four times in September and they’ve lost four consecutive home games for the first time in franchise history.
Biello has shuffled his starting lineup and tested out different formations recently, but the results have been the same.
Despite the team’s current form and the nearly insurmountable odds, goalkeeper Evan Bush still believes Montreal has a shot at post-season play.
"The least you can do is on game day believe that you can win every individual game," said Bush. "That shouldn’t matter if you’re first in the league, last in the league, fighting for a playoff spot, every day you should go into it believing you can win the game. If you don’t then you’re not a competitor and you don’t deserve to be playing.
"I go into every game believing we can win. That’s just the way it is."
Colorado (7-18-5) is the league’s worst team this season, which bodes well for Montreal’s slim playoff hopes. The Rapids have one win in their last 13 games, scoring 13 goals over that stretch. Their last victory at home was on July 1.
The Rapids were eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday after a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas.
"We have to make certain that we’re not chasing games," Rapids interim coach Steve Cooke told the team’s website this week. "At home on Saturday, that’s the goal for us, to not only stay in the game but take the game to Montreal and get a win at home in front of our fans."
Montreal will be without Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemaili, who is suspended for an accumulation of yellow cards.
Notes: Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti, whose contract was set to expire in June 2018, signed an extension on Thursday. The club did not reveal the terms of the deal. â€¦ Rapids forward Kevin Doyle, who spent most of his career with Reading and Wolverhampton in England, announced his retirement on Thursday.