Slumping Impact, Orlando set to open back-to-back series

Orlando City SC's Tyler Turner tugs on Montreal Impact's Ignacio Piatti's jersey. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact and Orlando City — two clubs hungry for a win — are set to clash in back-to-back games.

The first comes Wednesday night at Saputo Stadium, when the 10th-place Impact (4-11-0) face an Orlando (6-7-1) squad that has lost five league games in a row, although they picked up a 3-0 win over Miami FC in U.S. Open Cup play on June 6. They meet again June 23 in Orlando.

While the Impact have lost five of their last sixth, they see the two-game set as a chance to turn around what has been a miserable campaign and get back into the playoff hunt in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.

“Huge. Incredibly important,” was how defender Daniel Lovitz described it. “If we want to be a playoff contender we have to get results against these types of teams.

“More than anything, it’s another step for us to progress in the direction we want to go this year. We’re still digging ourselves out of a hole a bit, but these are two very important opportunities for us.”

Orlando’s losing run followed a six-game winning streak in late March and April, but the losses came mainly against strong sides like Atlanta, Toronto and New York City.

Their last outing on Saturday saw defender Mohamed El-Munir sent off in a 5-2 defeat in Vancouver.

They remain a dangerous attacking squad, who this season added MLS veterans Sasha Kljestan and Justin Meram to an already strong side led by seven-goal scorer Dom Dwyer.

“There’s no debating they’re a good team,” said Lovitz. “I think they’ve proven that.

“We’re a team that hasn’t shown how good we are. It’s a great opportunity for us to approach these games with nothing to fear or hold back.”

The Impact attack has been all but non-existent. They have scored only 15 goals in 15 games. But they eked out a 1-0 win at home against Houston on June 2 and felt they should have had at least one point in Dallas on Saturday, falling 2-0 instead in a disputed result.

They were told this week by MLS that the video review official made a mistake by failing to annul a Dallas goal in the fifth minute on an offside. The Impact tried to battle back and hit two goalposts before Dallas got the second goal from the penalty spot.

The offside goal was allowed despite consulting the VAR (video assistant referee) in yet another case of controversy while using technology that was supposed to get calls right every time. VAR is to be used at a FIFA World Cup for the first time starting this week.

“I’m sure they’ll struggle to implement it, as they have in this league so far,” Lovitz said of the Russia World Cup. “I wish them the best of luck with it.

“Hopefully they can work out some of the kinks and we can move forward as a league, and as a technology for them.”

Of greater concern is getting the ball in the Orlando net.

“Offensively it’s all about confidence, which we’ve been lacking lately,” said midfielder Samuel Piette. “We’ve been unlucky as well.

“Last game, two posts, a disallowed goal, but I think we have quality up top. And Nacho’s coming back. He’s been in a bad moment but I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Nacho is Ignacio Piatti, who leads the club with five goals but has gone five games without a point. He missed the Dallas game with a minor injury.

The Impact will also have defender Jukka Raitala back after he helped Finland beat Belarus in a friendly on Saturday. With Raitala out, Rudy Camacho returned from injury for his first game since April 28.

Orlando City (6-7-1) at Montreal Impact (4-11-0)

Wednesday night, Saputo Stadium

Both struggling: A 2-0 loss in Dallas on Saturday left the Impact in a 1-5-0 slump. Orlando has lost five in a row.

Goal drought: Montreal has scored only once in six games.

Home advantage: Montreal has two wins and a draw at home against Orlando all-time, including a 2-1 win in their last meeting at Saputo Stadium on Aug. 5.

No Munir: Orlando defender Mohamed El-Munir is suspended after he was shown the yellow card twice in a 5-2 loss in Vancouver on Saturday.

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