MONTREAL – “I want to be one of the best defenders in MLS” is no special sentence – except when it comes from a natural midfielder, of course.
When ambitious defensive midfielder Hassoun Camara picked up the then-NASL Montreal Impact’s No. 6 jersey in 2011, it was expected that he would become the team’s anchor in front of the back four. In the end, he seldom played at the position indicated by his jersey number, settling instead in the center of the defense, where his performances earned him a well-deserved MVP award from the club.
They also earned him an MLS contract, but despite his status as an established figure within the club, he had to win the confidence of a brand-new technical staff. A solid performance among an experimental line-up in a 2-0 win at Sporting Kansas City in May did the trick, and the Frenchman has only missed five games since then.
“[My performances] make me happy because they help the team,” Camara told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re a unit, and it’s important that we can count on one another. I still believe I’m a defensive midfielder, first and foremost, that’s helping out at the back, as Nick [De Santis, sporting director] knows. But if I'm asked to play at center back or [out]side back, I’ll gladly do it.”
The 28-year-old has flourished in both positions this season, intelligently stepping out from the back for the surges into the midfield that he loves so much. By his own account, though, his qualities – mainly his height and aerial ability – are better suited to a central role. Head coach Jesse Marsch seems to agree, as he has fielded Camara there in 10 of his 16 starts.
“Every day, I watch games and performances by center backs, side backs, defensive midfielders, whatever,” Camara said. “I try to replicate what is done in the greatest European clubs, no matter the position.”
At the moment, Patrice Bernier and Collen Warner share the Impact’s duties in deep midfield, but the latter will be suspended for the Impact’s next game in Houston. Having not trained for four days because of the flu, Camara has not had a chance to speak to Marsch about the possibilities of making a return to his natural position.
“It’ll depend on the coach’s choice, though I think he still needs me at the back,” Camara said. “Plus, it’s been a year since I played in midfield, so I’d have to make sure I settle right back in.”