MONTREAL – After yet another unpleasant Amway Canadian Championship night in Toronto, Marco Schällibaum was adamant that his team had to want it more.
The Swiss coach decided he would test his players’ will to win by sending them out in a new 4-4-2 formation on Saturday. As the 2-0 defeat they inflicted on the Chicago Fire may indicate, the squad accepted the challenge.
“As a coach, you have to send signals that you want to win the game 100 percent,” Schällibaum said in his postgame press conference. “I fielded a 4-4-2, but it was an attacking 4-4-2, with Felipe behind the strikers. I send them a good signal, and they understood my message. I’m really proud of this team.”
A satisfied Schällibaum praised his players for how flexible they proved to be.
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Forward Daniele Paponi, for one, was remarkably accommodating as he overcame cramps around the 75th minute and played a full 90 on his MLS debut, and a nice one at that. His chemistry with Marco Di Vaio, acquired in Italy with Bologna, pleased both forwards.
“It went very well today,” Paponi said through an interpreter. “We were able to find each other in different spots and now, we just have to build on the positives from today.”
Added Di Vaio: “It’s different, but I’d already played 4-4-2, it’s not difficult,” Di Vaio said. “You have less space, but you must look for different spaces since you’re not alone up front. But we can do well this way. We’re more dangerous, we have more opportunities to score goals and we have more opportunities to win.”
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Despite the helpful off-the-ball movement and impressive work rate on display against the Fire, Paponi is still some way from optimal game fitness. With four games in the next two weeks, reserve forwards Andrew Wenger and Sanna Nyassi could be called upon, but that doesn’t worry the Impact. The successful 4-4-2 experiment, team captain Davy Arnaud said, illustrates how many options they actually have.
“That’s the way that it has to be,” Arnaud said. “Every good team is capable of doing that. You can’t have 11 guys that you’re going to rely on to play 34 games. It’s not going to happen. The coach has said from the beginning that he trusts everybody, which he does, and he should, because we have a deep team.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com