If you elect to take a look at the Major League Soccer standings ahead of Columbus Crew SC's match with the Montreal Impact this Saturday night, don't be alarmed. The standings are indeed correct; the Impact has only played 15 games, the fewest in the league.
Before MLS even kicked off its 20th year, the Impact had already begun its competitive season in the CONCACAF Champions League. After defeating Mexican side Pachuca 3-3 on aggregate away goals, the side advanced past Alajuelense, before eventually falling to Club America 5-3 over two legs in the CCL Final.
The Champions League, combined with the two-legged Canadian Championship series - a 3-3 away goals win over Toronto FC - means Montreal played eight games outside of MLS play by the middle of May.
"When opportunities like that come, to be in the Champions League Final, you have to deal with it," Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter said when asked about the Impact's tough schedule. "It's a great opportunity for Major League Soccer and clubs need to be equipped to deal with it and I think Montreal's done a good job so far dealing with it."
By the time Montreal defeated Toronto in the Canadian Championship on May 13, the team had only played five MLS games. By comparison, the Black & Gold played nine games by that point and already had four wins.
The matches in hand could become an advantage for the Impact over the second half of the season. If this group can get on a roll, there will be plenty of games for the team to play catch up.
This is exactly what Berhalter believes could happen.
"I think as we look towards the second half of the season, that's a team that's going to be climbing the table," Berhalter said this week ahead of his team's trip to Montreal. "I really believe that they have the quality to start moving up."
Berhalter and his team saw this quality firsthand just over a month ago when the Impact came to Columbus and earned a 2-1 victory.
It was a night that Columbus fans want to forget, as it was the last lost for the Black & Gold, who have since gone four matches without a defeat.
As Crew SC heads to Montreal for the final regular season meeting of the year between the two sides, the players will not only want to get revenge for the last match, but also put distance between the Impact, who has played three less games than Columbus, and themselves.
Because if Berhalter is right and IMFC do get on a roll, this could be a team that keeps the Black & Gold from the postseason in a tight Eastern Conference.