MONTREAL — The message to the Montreal Impact from coach Mauro Biello this week was about overconfidence.
Just because they are coming off their first win of the Major League Soccer season and have the foundering Philadelphia Union next up on the schedule, that doesn’t mean an automatic three points.
"That was number one on the agenda," said Biello, whose club visits the Union on Saturday afternoon. "We need to go with an urgency and a playoff mentality."
It’s not as if the 10th-place Impact (1-2-3) are leagues ahead of the 11th-place Union (0-4-2), even if their spirits are up after a 2-1 victory at home over 10-man Atlanta.
But they are facing a team that hasn’t won in 14 games since a 2-0 win over Kansas City on Aug. 27, an 0-10-4 run that includes a loss to Toronto FC in a playoff knockout game in October.
There were reports of booing as they left the field after a 2-0 loss last Saturday to New York City, a fourth defeat in a row. The Union has been outscored 11-5 by opponents this season.
Beleaguered coach Jim Curtain has been juggling his starting 11 in hope of finding a winning combination, so far to no avail.
Biello sees a dangerous opponent rather than a sitting duck, however.
"The game I’ve seen, I think they were a bit unlucky," he said. "If you watched the first 10 minutes (against NYC), if they were a little sharper they could have taken the lead.
"One thing I’ve learned is that there’s so much parity in the league, every game is difficult. Yes, this is a team that hasn’t found success at home, but we’re expecting a difficult challenge because there’s a sense of urgency on their end to get that first win. We have to be ready for that."
Also, Montreal has not won in Philadelphia (0-2-4) since joining MLS in 2012. And they are 0-2-2 in away matches this season.
"We’re kind of in the same situation that Atlanta was in last week, playing a team that’s had some tough results and are looking for their first win at home," said Impact right back Chris Duvall. "We know we’re going to get a desperate team and one that’s ready for a fight."
The Impact will have midfielder Marco Donadel back from a one-game suspension but will be without centre back Victor Cabrera, who is out indefinitely with an ankle injury that forced him out early against Atlanta.
The back line will likely have Duvall and Ambroise Oyongo on the flanks with Laurent Ciman and Hassoun Camara in the middle.
Donadel’s return would bump Calum Mallace back to the bench.
While putting two victories together and picking up a first road win are the Impact’s main goals, Duvall hopes to throw in a clean sheet.
"We still haven’t got our first shutout," he said. "I think that’s the first thing.
"From all 11 players on the field, we want to get our first shutout because we know that with the attackers we have we’ll get some goals."
They might add cutting down on fouls — they lead the league with more than 15 per game — and avoiding red cards (they’ve seen three in six games) to the wish list.
Up front, Ignacio Piatti returned from injury last week and scored on a penalty, while academy product Anthony Jackson-Hamel came off the bench to score the MLS goal of the week in added time, a clever redirection with his back to the net.
The goal that gave the Impact their first win of the season may earn 23-year-old from Quebec City more minutes.