After playing all 90 minutes of Montreal’s 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, Impact midfielder Collen Warner believes his level of fitness is pretty close to what is needed to play full games this season. But for that to happen, he will need to start them.
“[Head coach Jesse Marsch] has been asking me to do certain things, like having an impact on the game both offensively and defensively, and working very hard, for example,” Warner told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Orlando, Fla. “There are definitely things I can try and work on, and hopefully those, as well as my ability on the ball, will help me get into a position where I can challenge for a starting slot.”
At this stage last year, many observers saw Warner as a potential breakout player for the 2011 season. With his then team Real Salt Lake needing depth ahead of their memorable CONCACAF Champions League run – later coupled with Javier Morales’ injury that put him on the sidelines for several months – it was a golden opportunity for Warner to establish himself as a starter in midfield.
But it didn’t turn out that way for the Denver native, as youngster Luis Gil successfully challenged for more minutes in the center of the park at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The competition isn’t any less stiff in Montreal – Warner is going up against both Felipe and Patrice Bernier. Marsch, however, seems to favor a two-man central midfield with one forward dropping a bit deeper, which restricts the options for Warner in the position where he feels most comfortable.
“Though clearly, it would be great to play with them in a midfield three,” Warner admits.
The 23-year-old’s current situation presents the obvious advantage of an expansion team coming together, with no de facto starters from previous seasons. Moreover, Warner picked up some international experience last month, spending 10 days training with Brighton & Hove Albion of the English Championship. Such an experience could help Warner if things don’t go his way in Montreal.
“The trip was mostly to stay sharp, but I did learn a number of dirty jokes,” he laughed. “Experiences like that are good to see a new environment, how things are done in England, learn a few things and adapt to the speed of the play.”
FULL HIGHLIGHTS: Montreal 1, Sporting KC 1