MONTREAL – Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch put his players through MLS paces on Friday in their final training session of this week's evaluation camp as they prepared for Saturday's finale: a morning intrasquad game at Complexe Claude-Robillard.
The morning session may have only lasted an hour, but was certainly very intense as the 2012 hopefuls were pushed hard in the final day of practice. After a fifth day of training, Marsch (above right, with former Vancouver Whitecap Wes Knight) admitted he had to calm the players down as the level of intensity increased.
“We’ve opened things up a little bit in the week, and it’s gotten a bit hectic," Marsch told reporters on Friday. “Today, I tried to lay things out so that tomorrow’s game has pace, but also stays organized.”
The American coach is looking for a good matchup on Saturday, and understands players will be pushing hard to prove themselves. At the start of Friday’s practice, he took the time to explain what he intends to see in the game.
“I still think that we want moments [where] we’re in attacking transition and putting plays together,” he explained. “But it just can’t be turnover after turnover after turnover. We’re hoping to be getting more [plays] and then, above and beyond all, see what the guys look like on the final day.”
Marsch knows the week has been very physically grueling for some players. Seattle Sounders loanee Miguel Montaño, for instance, has only been able to do basic exercises due to a leg injury he suffered earlier in the week, while midfielder Ian Westlake hasn’t been seen since the first day of practice after pulling his calf.
Others have been playing an entire season and are starting to feel both the physical and mental strain of this training camp, which Marsch held to take a preliminary look at what his options are for the Impact's inaugural season in MLS next year. For that reason, Marsch has elected to reduce Saturday's scrimmage to 70 minutes.
“We don’t have many subs, and we’re going to play two 35-minute halves,” the former US national-team assistant coach said. “It’s been a hard week and we’ve pushed the players. The field is a little narrow, which means we might have a tighter game. We’ll make a few changes here and there, and play around with positions but, for the most part, we’ll let them play.”
Nelson Rivas — the team's first official signing for next season — has been training with the team since Tuesday but has yet to complete more than an hour of work per day as he is still not near top form. The former Inter Milan defender may take part in Saturday's intrasquad game, but Marsch has yet to make an official decision.
“We’ll see about Nelson,” he said of the Colombian. “He would like to play and I would like him to, but we’ll see.”