Jozy Altidore is looking like a prophet.
On Aug. 26, the Toronto FC striker mused that it would be "beautiful" to knock the Impact out of the Major League Soccer playoffs. The next day, TFC beat the Impact 3-1 in Montreal.
The victory ended the Impact's four-game winning streak, and the team hasn't won a match since, losing four in a row to drop six points out of the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with six games left in the regular season.
The Impact and the TFC are set to meet again Wednesday at BMO Field in Toronto, with the TFC riding a six-game winning run in which the team outscored its opponents 21-3.
Toronto (18-3-8) is the league's runaway leader with 62 points from 29 games, but now Montreal (10-12-6) has a chance to stall the TFC's bid for the Los Angeles Galaxy's record for points in a season, which is either 67 points (under current rules) or 68 (from when there were no draws and games were settled by shootouts).
"When you play Toronto, it's just that you want to beat them," Impact captain Patrice Bernier said on Monday. "Now Altidore, a DP [designated player] from Toronto said it, but I've said that and I think [Toronto midfielder] Jonathan Osorio has said it before.
"Now it's just that the rivalry has scaled up. We'll do everything possible to win and, yeah, if we can knock some points off them, that would be great. But now we have to do everything possible to win. We're not going to think of where they are because we have to continue to fight and keep ourselves alive to make the playoffs."
It will be a tall order. Toronto hasn't lost since a 3-1 setback in Dallas on July 1, going 8-0-3 since then. The team is 11-0-3 at home this season.
And it always seems to have a little extra energy when it plays Montreal.
The teams played a wild Eastern Conference final last fall, with the Impact taking a 3-0 lead in the first leg at home only to give up two late goals. The two-game series was won by Toronto in overtime in the second leg. The TFC also beat Montreal in the Canadian Cup final this season.
The match in Toronto starts a stretch of four games in 11 days that also takes the Impact to Atlanta on Sunday, back home against New York City on Sept. 27 and at Colorado on Sept. 30. Then the Impact plays in Toronto again on Oct. 15 before finishing the season on Oct. 22 against New England.
With the form the Impact has shown lately, it may get to be too much for a team that dug itself into a hole by losing its past three home games, including a 3-2 stinker to expansion Minnesota on Saturday night.
Such was the frustration on social media from Montreal fans, and team president and owner Joey Saputo issued a statement Sunday night.
"Our team's latest performance has clearly fallen short of our expectations and those of our members, supporters and city," it read. "Rest assured that this message has been conveyed to the technical staff and the players.
"Having said that, at the beginning of the year, we presented a timeline with some very clear objectives as to where this club wants to be in the next five years.
"Today, our resolve and our objectives have not changed. While this season has been extremely trying on many fronts, we ask for your patience."
Bernier said the players were well aware of how Saputo felt about their performance.
"We can't lie," he said. "The standings and our last performances say exactly what the situation is.
"The president expressed his disappointment. In Europe, this is normal. Maybe in Montreal we're not used to it because other sports teams don't have that."
The Impact made the playoffs in three of its first five MLS seasons, but this season has been a struggle, with points repeatedly lost to blown leads, defensive lapses and missed opportunities.
"We have very good players, a fantastic roster with top players in the league like Nacho [Piatti]," defender Hassoun Camara said. "But we're missing something for sure, because in the end, we cannot be in this position.
"It's about cohesion. We have things between us as players and staff but it stays between us. We have to do everything to stick together and work together. We're paid to be here and we have to be professional to the end."