Impact's Warner gets chance to shine against former club

Will Johnson and Collen Warner

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Up until Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake, Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch had given the keys to his midfield to Patrice Bernier and Felipe Martins. However, a draining stretch of three games in eight days meant squad rotation was always going to be necessary against Jason Kreis’ side.

That opened the door for Collen Warner, as the stars aligned for the 23-year-old to boss the midfield in a familiar setting at Rio Tinto Stadium. And he did just that against his former team, constantly fighting for the ball and often winning it back with a little help from his old friends, who were often sloppy in possession.

HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 1, MTL 0

And while Warner was certainly determined to show his quality against the players with whom he spent his first formative professional years, he said Wednesday night was more about finding his place with his new side.

“Maybe [playing against RSL motivated me] a little bit,” Warner told MLSsoccer.com in a phone conversation after Wednesday’s game, “but I think it was more about how this was my first start for the team. I really wanted to make a good impression.”

Having mentioned this past February that he would relish the opportunity to play in a midfield triangle with Bernier and Felipe, Warner got half his wish as Felipe played next to him while Bernier wasn’t included in the 18-man roster against RSL. It wasn’t the first time Warner played alongside the Brazilian – he replaced Bernier for the entire second half against the Crew in Columbus – and he felt the reunion was encouraging.

“I thought we got on well, especially with the defensive and offensive responsibilities that we had,” Warner said. “Davy Arnaud was back in the middle a little bit more in this match and I think that helped us get some possession in their house. Good things came out of that.”

Still, despite a positive performance overall, chances are Warner will not be a guaranteed starter against Toronto FC on Saturday (noon ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, watch LIVE online in US). The bright spot in the New York Red Bulls’ 5-2 thrashing of the Impact was Bernier’s all-around solid game, and it is widely expected he will start in front of his hometown crowd.

Good soldier that he is, Warner trusts his boss’ judgment ahead of Montreal’s second Canadian derby – and first at home – but his words nevertheless betray a strong interest in retaining his starting berth for as the Impact fight for their first win in MLS.

“It’s a quick turnaround, after playing 90 minutes, so I guess we’ll have to see after the travel,” Warner conceded. “I'd love to [start], obviously. Jesse will definitely choose what he feels is the best starting XI to face Toronto.”