MONTREAL — It has been since the summer of 2014 that the Montreal Impact lost three home games in a row, but if they don't find an answer to their inconsistent form of late it may happen again.
The Impact (2-4-4), last in the MLS Eastern Conference, play host to the Portland Timbers (5-3-3) on Saturday afternoon having fallen to Vancouver and Columbus in their last two outings at Saputo Stadium.
That the setbacks sandwiched their only road victory of the season in Washington, D.C., shows the trouble last season's conference finalists have had in putting together two strong games, or even two solid halves.
"We have to tighten things up," said defender Kyle Fisher, still smarting from last week's 3-2 defeat in which the Impact overcame a two-goal deficit only to concede the game-winner in added time. "Especially at home, we can't expect to win games when we give up three goals.
"That's something we've taken on our shoulders. And it's chippy this week, I'm telling you. It's going to be a good game."
Road wins are hard to come by in MLS so it is crucial to win at home, where the Impact are 1-2-1 this season. They are in a stretch of three straight league games at home, but a two-game Canadian Championship semifinal with Vancouver comes before the New York Red Bulls visit on June 3.
The Timbers have had problems of their own. A loss and two draws in their last three outings saw the 2015 MLS champions fall from first to fourth in the Western Conference. They are a decent 2-2-1 on the road, but lost their last away game 3-0 in San Jose.
The Timbers, who will have veteran left wing Darlington Nagbe back after missing two games with a bad hamstring, are tied with Houston for the league lead with 21 goals scored.
"It's a good team but we have to focus on ourselves, not on the opponent," said defender Laurent Ciman. "We're trying to work out our problems. We have to look ourselves in the eye and be ready to play."
Last week's loss spoiled the debut of designated player Blerim Dzemaili, who set up Anthony Jackson-Hamel's tying goal in the 77th minute. Perhaps this week the former Bologna midfielder will start alongside captain Patrice Bernier, who entered in the second half and helped spark the comeback.
Also, defensive midfielder Marco Donadel was back from an injury this week and may find some chemistry with a fellow former Italian league player. Defender Hassoun Camara may also be ready to return from a concussion, although forward Matteo Mancosu, defender Victor Cabrera and midfielder Andres Romero are still sidelined.
Whoever plays, consistency will be the objective. This a team that led Seattle 2-0 at home and then allowed two goals in the second half and which fell behind 3-0 in Chicago and roared back to earn a draw.
They have scored a so-so 14 goals in 10 games, but have allowed 17. On the bright side, they are not quite a third of the way through the season. Two wins would have them at .500 and right back in the playoff mix.
"We didn't start too bad the last game but after we conceded the first goal the emotional part was difficult because we were playing at home," said assistant coach Wilfried Nancy."We were close to winning the game but to be better we have to adjust a couple of things in terms of positioning.
"It's not too bad. When we did a summary of the last 10 games, we lost (games), but by one goal. The objective is to try to repair these errors and be better, but we're close."
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press