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Impact look to avoid disaster in Canadian Championship battle with Edmonton

MONTREAL - The Montreal Impact's prospects of a league championship look bleak, but there's always the Cup.

The Impact, last in Major League Soccer with a 1-5-3 record, will be looking to avert disaster and advance to the second round of the Amway Canadian Championship when they play host to second division side FC Edmonton at Saputo Stadium on Wednesday night.

They will start the game down one goal in the two-game, total-goals series after a 2-1 loss in Edmonton in the first leg last week on Michael Nonni's tally in stoppage time.

The away goal scored by Jack McInerney means a 1-0 win would put them through.

The winner advances to the Voyageurs Cup final against the victor of the other semifinal between Toronto FC or the Vancouver Whitecaps.

"We're not looking at trying to win 1-0 because anything can happen in a game," Impact defender Hassoun Camara said this week. "Nothing's guaranteed, so we have to play hard for 90 minutes and try to dominate the match."

Edmonton plays in the NASL, a level below Major League Soccer, and will be seeking an upset of the defending Voyageurs Cup champions.

They took the first leg when 17-year-old Hanson Boakai set up Tomi Ameobi's tying goal in 60th minute and then Nonni jumped on a defensive error for the winner.

The Eddies are expected to park the bus and play for a 0-0 draw in the return leg. The Impact want to turn on the attack.

"This game at home is a chance to get our revenge," said Camara. "We are the defending champions, so we want to be in the final to defend our title.

"We need to work as hard as possible to get out of this funk and playing at home could help us turn things around. We respect them as a team, but we have better quality. So we'll play to score as many goals as possible. I'm not concerned at all. I know we'll turn things around."

Edmonton goes into the match with momentum from a three-game unbeaten run, including a win over the Ottawa Fury in the Canadian Championship preliminary round, the victory over Montreal and the team's first league win of the season over the Indy Eleven on Saturday.

"It's a special occasion for the club, arguably the most important game in the club's history," coach Colin Miller told the team's website. "We've managed a win in three out of our last four games and we know we have a difficult task ahead of us, but we'll be looking forward to it."

It has been a miserable season for the Impact, who have won only once in 10 games under Frank Klopas. The former Chicago Fire boss replaced Marco Schallibaum as head coach in the off-season.

During a 3-0 loss at home to Kansas City on Saturday, team president Joey Saputo tweeted that changes are coming, but so far the only move was to loan left side midfielder Blake Smith to the Indy Eleven.

Losing to an NASL team in Cup play would be a major blow to a team that only last season was gunning for first place in MLS before a late-season collapse.

"We are kind of in a negative state right now, so to get a win, regardless against who, would give us a lot of momentum going forward and a chance to play in the final of the Cup as defending champs," said goalkeeper Evan Bush, who starts Cup games while Troy Perkins plays the MLS matches. "Right now, we have to concentrate on one game at a time.

"You can't take them lightly by any means. We lost and that means they are an opponent worthy to be in the spot that they are right now, leading this semifinal. As far as last week, the goals that they scored had a lot to do with our own mental lapses. If we cut that out, find more consistency in our game and play a full 90 minutes, we'll be fine."

Since Montreal joined MLS in 2012, it has not conceded a goal at home in three Canadian Championship games.

Last year, the Impact beat TFC 6-0 in the second leg after losing the first leg 2-0.

That put them into the CONCACAF Champions League, where they won their two home games, but failed to advance past the first round after a 3-0 loss to the Earthquakes in San Jose.

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