MONTREAL – The Impact sound serious about their hunt for another Voyageurs Cup.
“We’ve got to see who’s in their best form and put the strongest team out there,” head coach Frank Klopas told reporters on Monday.
What will that strongest team look like, then, when Montreal visit FC Edmonton on Wednesday in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals? Reporters tried their hardest to get Klopas to spill the beans prior to the match (9:30 pm ET, Sportsnet ONE).
“We have some guys right now that will not be able to play,” Klopas said. “There’s nothing I can do. But that’s going to happen throughout the whole year. For sure, when some guys are in form and you’re playing once a week, I think you can see more of a continuity in the lineup like that.
“But in this month, it's going to be a lot of games and a lot of travel, and we have to rely on the depth of the team that we have, also taking in [consideration] some of the injuries that we have.”
Given Clarke Stadium's artificial turf – a type of surface the Impact feel much too acquainted with thanks to several early-season matches on it at the Olympic Stadium – young and healthy players may get opportunities instead of recovering colleagues such as Sanna Nyassi and Hernán Bernardello. Montreal even announced that four Under-23 players made the trip to Alberta.
But Klopas and his men insist that they won’t underestimate Edmonton, who knocked out Ottawa Fury FC in the ACC preliminary round but sit at the bottom of the NASL standings with one point from four games.
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“We’re the Canadian champions, but we have to realize that that was last year,” captain Patrice Bernier told reporters in French. “Admittedly, I don’t know Edmonton much, but I know their coach [Colin Miller]. He’s a guy that demands a lot from his players, and it won’t be an easy game.”
The preliminary round belonged to Canada youth international Hanson Boakai, who scored a goal and provided two assists in Edmonton’s 3-1 return leg win (3-1 on aggregate). Center back Karl Ouimette, a senior Canada international, is looking forward to dealing with Boakai’s pace.
“If I were in their position, I would want to play the best game of my life,” Ouimette told reporters in French. “I’d want to perform, play a physical game, everything.
"They won't come out with their heads down. Their heads will be up. They’ll want to show us what they’re made off, prove that they deserve to be in this tournament. We have to get there with the same mentality.”