MONTREAL — The MLS Cup playoffs race in the Eastern Conference has a distinct maple flavor.
The Montreal Impact are fighting with Toronto FC and the New England Revolution for the final two spots above the playoffs line. TFC took a leap to sixth place last weekend thanks to a 5-1 win over FC Cincinnati, while the Revs suffered a last-minute 2-1 defeat to New York City FC and slipped to seventh. Montreal sits eighth, four points behind Toronto and two behind New England. Both postseason rivals have a game in hand on the Impact.
The Impact have to ignore outside results and focus on their own games, according to goalkeeper Evan Bush.
“I don’t care about Toronto or what they do,” Bush said. “I just care about what’s going on here. We can look at the scores all we want but the fact is that we have to win games here and then we’ll see where we are after that.
“I saw the scores and paid attention after [the games] had happened, but I’m not sitting at home watching the games I have no control over.”
Currently resting during a FIFA international window, Montreal will have its back against the wall over the regular season’s closing stretch. Nevertheless, Bush believes the Impact’s playoff hopes are still within reach and in their hands.
“We have no excuses, we’re not going to have tired legs,” he said. “We’re going to be fresh, hopefully fresh mentally for each guy, and we should be able to put a performance in that we should be proud of.”
Esteban Gesto: Newest Montreal Impact assistant
The Impact named a new assistant to their coaching staff Monday. Esteban Gesto, a Uruguayan who made his name in the fitness side of coaching, joins the staff as a request from Wílmer Cabrera.
— Tristan D'Amours (@tristandamours) September 9, 2019
The head coach wanted to add an assistant of his own to complete his staff and managed to do so in his third week at the helm. Cabrera first knew of Gesto as a coach back in his playing days.
“[Cabrera] told us he’s known him for a long long time, I think since Wilmer’s been 18,” Bush said. “I’m not sure how old Wilmer is, but I’m assuming that’s a decent amount of time. He looks like a wise old man, so hopefully he can instill some of that within the group.”
Halfway through the break
The new week marks the midway point for the Impact’s break from MLS play. Bush believes Montreal should spend the time off absorbing the new manager’s tactics.
“Hopefully the minds are open for a bit of instruction and guidance about how we want to play,” he said. “We’re halfway there now, and hopefully we’re absorbing that and we’re looking forward to how we’re going to play on Saturday [against FC Cincinnati].”
In addition to Cabrera’s mandate to play higher up the field, Bush said his team should needs to work on its mental toughness. He insisted on the players reacting better in moments following an opponent’s goal.
“You can talk about it all you want Monday to Friday, but when you get punched in the face like we did against D.C., taking the first goal and not being able to respond properly, then taking a second, taking a third and by the time that happens the game is out of reach,” Bush said. “We got to be able to respond better within a game, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that on Saturday.”