MONTREAL – “Aujourd’hui, je cours!”
Soccer players telling reporters they ran today is akin to chefs proudly telling colleagues that they cook for a living – it’s stating the obvious. But for the Montreal Impact’s Zarek Valentin, it’s the happiest sentence he will say in French all day.
Hours after Valentin suffered a calf contusion courtesy of a Diego Chara challenge during the Impact’s 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers on April 28, the prognosis was that he would be back on the field in no time. Unexpectedly, the right back has been struggling with his fitness ever since and has only started to pick up the pace this week.
Enthusiastic as ever, Valentin is eager to put the injury to rest and make his comeback as quick as possible, eyeing the Impact’s game in Colorado against the Rapids next week as a reasonable target.
“It’s getting a lot better,” Valentin told reporters on Wednesday. “I almost ran at full pace today. Hopefully, I’ll be sprinting by a day or two, so when that happens, it’s just about playing and getting fit again. … I’ve got to take it slow so I don’t re-injure it, but for the most part, it’s going really well.”
With the Impact’s hectic start to the month of May, the timing of the injury could have been better for Valentin. Competing on two fronts meant that more defenders were given a chance, notably Jeb Brovsky and Hassoun Camara, who have impressed at right back while the Impact’s No. 19 was biding his time.
“Obviously, it’s going to be tough to get a spot back since everyone’s doing well," he said. "We’ve been getting some good results. Obviously, Kansas City was a great result. We haven’t given up too many goals during the run of play.”
An added difficulty for Valentin is the arrival of Timothée Atouba – formerly of Ajax, Hamburg and Tottenham Hotspur – in Montreal on a one-week trial. Although the Cameroonian has been a left back his whole career, Valentin knows competition on either flank has consequences on his own playing time.
“It reminds you how nobody’s spot is technically ever secure and you got to keep playing well," Valentin said. "I think that, actually, it raises the play of people, as you could think, ‘Oh man, he’s coming to take my spot.’ I know he’s an outside back, so I've got to get back as soon as I can.”