MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact will do its best not to let the raucous Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium crowd affect its game plan when it faces the Puerto Rican Islanders on Sunday night in Game 2 of its United Soccer Leagues First Division semifinal series in San Juan.
The Impact won the opener of the two-game, total-goal series 2-1 Thursday night in Montreal. With a victory or a tie Sunday night, the Impact would advance to the league final against either the Vancouver Whitecaps or the Portland Timbers, who are playing in the other semifinal. Vancouver won the first game 2-1, with Game 2 also slated for Sunday night in Portland.
“The climate, field and ambience in Puerto Rico are different than elsewhere in the league, but it’s essentially a question of perception,” said Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos, who will be back after serving an automatic one-game suspension in Game 1 following his ejection from Game 2 of the quarter-final victory over the Charleston Battery. “When you come here, you experience the South American atmosphere and it feels as though you were playing a Champions League match.
“It can be intimidating for certain teams, yet these are the same Islanders that go on the road,” Dos Santos added. “Thursday at Saputo Stadium, Puerto Rico didn’t get many chances to score. We therefore shouldn’t get intimidated in their home.”
The Impact advanced to the semifinals by defeating the Battery 4-1 on total goals. After a 2-0 win in Montreal, the Impact beat the Battery in South Carolina 2-1.
“We are going to Puerto Rico with the objective to win and not only to protect our advantage,” Impact midfielder Patrick Leduc said. “It’s a field like any other and it’s up to us to execute the game plan well. We know we have to win the third and fourth halves to win this series. We have to focus on what we need to do minute by minute to get a positive result.”
Added Dos Santos: “We know what we need to do to make it to the final. We need to have the same mentality than during the second leg in Charleston. We have to manage well the full 90 minutes and play our match. We must continue believing in what we do. We will need to be nearly perfect because the match will once again be decided over details.”