Montreal (14-13-7) at Houston (14-11-9), 8:30 p.m.
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Two Eastern Conference sides struggling to find their form will clash on Thursday in a knockout round match as the fourth-seeded Houston Dynamo welcome the fifth-seeded Montreal Impact to BBVA Compass Stadium.
The Dynamo faltered a bit down the stretch of the regular season, but enter the match riding a bit of momentum following their 2-1 victory over D.C. United last Sunday which saw them clinch a postseason berth. The club will be hoping to reach MLS Cup final for the third consecutive season.
And the team knows earning a victory over Montreal in the knockout round, with their back against the wall, is the first step.
"This is the time of the year that we all tremendously enjoy, this is what it's all about. It's do or die, we like it when our back's against the wall, we tend to come out scratching and crawling and doing our best in that situation," said captain Brad Davis.
"The regular season doesn't matter. What we wish we would have changed or could have won or should have won, or shouldn't have lost -- whatever it is, it doesn't matter," said goalkeeper Tally Hall. "We know that we've got a job to do and we're excited to be that Dynamo team that is known for postseason performances."
Montreal, meanwhile, is the epitome of a team backing its way into the postseason. After missing the playoffs in their inaugural season last year, the Impact looked unbeatable early this year, winning their first four and nine of 14.
But as the season wore on, the Impact's age and lack of scoring depth seemed to catch up to them. Beginning with a 2-1 loss to Columbus on Sept. 14, Montreal went winless in eight of their last nine matches, including a 1-0 defeat against struggling Toronto FC on the final weekend of the season that dropped them to fifth in the East.
Despite their late-season swoon, the playoffs represent a clean slate and a chance for the team to right themselves and make a run for a title.
"The teams are very close," Impact forward Collen Warner said. "Our team is very excited. We feel we have just as much talent as the other teams, and when we put the right foot forward early in the game, it puts other teams under pressure, because we have a good defense. If we can get them behind the ball to begin, it will be a positive for us."
"We must find a balance between physical play, tactical play and quality," Montreal assistant coach Mauro Biello said. "That's what will give us the best chances to win. If we go there and simply try to be physical against a team that may be more physical than us, we'll be in trouble."
The two clubs met three times during the regular campaign. The first encounter on June 20 saw Montreal earn a 2-0 victory before a convincing 5-0 thumping by the Impact on Aug. 25. Houston exacted some measure of revenge in the season's final meeting as the Dynamo came away with a 1-0 result on Oct. 5 on home soil.