MONTREAL - That Wandrille Lefevre and Maxim Tissot played a hand in the Montreal Impact's 2-2 draw at Chicago last week was not big news around Major League Soccer.
But it was significant for Montreal, as both are graduates of the Impact Academy, which was set up in 2010 to develop mainly local talent for the pro team.
Lefevre, and possibly Tissot, may see more action in Houston tonight when the third-place Impact (13-9-7) take on the fourth-place Dynamo (12-10-8) in a key battle in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
"We've always had a good pool of players in Quebec," assistant coach Mauro Biello said Thursday. "Now that we have the academy, we can mould them the way we want.
"It'll be an advantage to us. I think we'll see the results over the next five to seven years."
Against Chicago, Lefevre had a strong game replacing injured central defender Alessandro Nesta. Tissot substituted for Andrew Wenger in the midfield in the 67th minute. Twenty minutes later, he headed in the equalizer.
The 23-year-old Lefevre, a native of France who moved to Montreal as a teenager, and 21-year-old Tissot, of Gatineau, Que., are among five academy graduates to sign with the MLS team. The others are defender Karl Ouimette of Repentigny, Que., Morocco native Zakaria Messoudi of Montreal and goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau of Greenfield Park, Que.
Tissot has appeared in three MLS games and has a goal and an assist, both in matches against Chicago. Lefevre has played two.
"Tissot had a very good training camp but then got injured," said Biello. "He came back and started a game against Salt Lake, but then broke a toe.
"He's shown good things. He's got his rhythm back. He had a solid game against C.D. Heredia (in the CONCACAF Champions League) and then he got into the game in Chicago and scored.
"Lefevre's a little older. He had a solid game against Chicago."
Before they joined MLS last season, the Impact were a power in various leagues for most of the previous 18 seasons, always with a strong core of local players.
Some now coach or manage the club, including Biello, sporting director Nick De Santis, director of soccer operations Matt Jordan, team manager Adam Braz and academy coaches Jason DiTullio and Simon Gatti.
But the calibre of play is higher in MLS, and the Impact have imported most of their starters from Europe and South America, plus Americans like goalie Troy Perkins, fullback Jeb Brovsky and midfielder Justin Mapp.
The only local in the starting 11 is 34-year-old Patrice Bernier. The midfielder from Brossard, Que., began his pro career with the Impact in the A-League from 2000 to 2002, played nine seasons in Europe and returned when the club entered MLS in 2012.
They hope to produce more and get back to that local flavour under Impact assistant coach Philippe Eullaffroy, the Frenchman who has been director of the academy since it's inception.
His work is beginning to pay off.
"We're very happy with the progress of our young players," said Biello.
The 37-year-old Nesta, nursing a groin injury, and midfielder Hernan Bernardello, who is recovering from a sprained ankle, did not make the trip to Houston. Bernardello has resumed practising with the team and may be ready for a home game next week against New England.
Coach Marco Schallibaum keeps his starting 11 secret, but it is likely that Lefevre will be back in Nesta's spot, with Tissot on the bench.
Midfielder Felipe Martins will return after serving a one-game suspension for accumulating five yellow cards, which will bump a player, likely Wenger, from the formation.
The Impact beat Houston twice at home this season 2-0 and 5-0, but they expect a tougher match at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Dynamo have found their legs of late, with two wins and a draw in their last three games.
"As a coach, when you get beat by a team by zero, that's always the first reminder," said Biello. "They'll be ready to make amends.
"We expect a playoff-type game."
Marco Di Vaio, the MLS leader with 19 goals, has three against Houston this season. Felipe has two goals and a pair of assists.
The Dynamo are starting a run of three home games against the best of the Eastern Conference and hope to use that to nail down a playoff position. After Montreal, striker Will Bruin and his Houston teammates will face second-place Kansas City and first-place New York.
Montreal, which has a win and two draws in its last three road games, holds a two-point lead on Houston with a game in hand. The Impact have five games left to play in the regular season, only two of them at home.
"This is a good opportunity for us," Dynamo captain Brad Davis told the club's website. "This Friday is the most important one.
"We can jump Montreal in the standings and, hopefully, give ourselves room."
Notes _ The game was to have aired in French on TVA Sport, but was bumped by an Ottawa Senators hockey game to RDSinfo, which normally runs sports news in a 30-minute loop. . . The Impact opened its new FieldTurf practice pitch next to Saputo Stadium this week. The field will also be used by the academy and some neighborhood teams, and will be home field for the University of Quebec at Montreal varsity squad.