MONTREAL -- Saturday’s game against the Columbus Crew (2 pm ET, MLS Live) opens a most crucial stretch for the Montreal Impact.
A day after the game, they head off to San Jose, where they will be in CONCACAF Champions League action against the Earthquakes on Sept. 17. And the same pattern repeats the following week, minus the traveling: Montreal are playing Vancouver Whitecaps on Sept. 21 and CD Heredia in the CCL three days later, both at Stade Saputo.
Four games in 10 days, even in the best of times, tests a team’s depth. But these aren’t the best of times for the Impact.
Injuries to midfielder Hernan Bernardello and defender Adrian Lopez –the latter will miss the remainder of the season with a torn right ACL – rob Marco Schällibaum of players who would have been key elements of his squad rotation.
“That means several players will play both on Saturday and on Tuesday,” Schällibaum told reporters earlier this week. “I don’t know who yet. It depends on positions as well. We’re a little tight on defense, but we have more possibilities in attack.”
The circumstances increase the difficulty of fixtures Montreal already recognize as tricky ones, starting with the Crew – who they have only beaten once in five attempts (a late 2-1 home win on July 8, 2012).
Moreover, Schällibaum points out that the closer you get to your objective, the tougher it is to pick up points. But he rejoiced over his charges’ positive outlook in last weekend’s 4-2 win at New England and expects them to carry on.
“It’s always easy to say you felt like your team would win after they won, but I did see in the first two or three minutes that they were ready to push forward,” Schällibaum said of the New England win. “The penalty kick and the red card showed that we were active in the first minutes. The goal and man advantage helped us, but the way we started the game was very important.”
In a bid for another decisive start, Schällibaum has tried several options out again this week. He could yet call upon an added striker against Columbus or stick with the lone forward system that has yielded 10 out of a possible 12 MLS points of late.
“We know that with two or three games in a week, there’s a chance to make the lineup,” midfielder Patrice Bernier told reporters. “Everyone’s going for it. We’re competitive, even when it’s a full week's training for one spot. … If you haven’t played in a while, you want to prove you can be the first substitute or the one getting in if there’s rotation happening.”