GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The Montreal Impact can return to Canada on Sunday with a sense of satisfaction about the work they have done during their 10-day Mexican training camp, but also the knowledge that much works still lies ahead.
“I'm pleased with the progress we are making, but we have to be careful about how we approach this whole thing,” Marsch told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “We are aware there is still a lot of work to do.”
The Impact drew 0-0 against Chivas, won 1-0 against Estudiantes Tecos, walked over local university ITESO 7-0 and battled for a 1-1 tie against Atlas during their time in Guadalajara. General fitness and getting the chemistry of the team was the main goal for the camp, according to assistant coach Mike Sorber, and Gambian winger Sanna Nyassi insists both have come on leaps and bounds during the trip.
“It's tough bringing players from different places together for the first time, but that's why we came here for preseason," Nyassi said. "I think it's getting better and better.”
Former New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Greg Sutton believes that the mix of personalities in the squad stands the team in good stead going into the Impact's first season in MLS.
“We've got guys with good personalities and guys that are going to be able to assimilate with each other pretty well,” the 34-year-old Canadian native said.
The difficulty of coming down to play strong local Mexican teams, full of players in the midst of the domestic season, was good for building a good base for the new players, according to Marsch.
“What happens is that all the reactions and all the habits of how the group works together and how they compete, it all gets put under the microscope,” he said.
After the first game last Sunday against Chivas, Marsch said there are a lot of options in terms of potential formations, but in the following games against Tecos and Atlas, the team didn't experiment too much, playing two banks of four and only rotating between having two main strikers and one man in the hole with the other further up.
The issue of choosing a captain is something that will have to wait. Patrice Bernier is an early fan favorite, but Sorber says the group is still working out who the leaders are, and that the most important thing is getting an experienced nucleus together that leads as an example.
Between the sticks, Jamaican international Donovan Ricketts, Sutton and last season's NASL Golden Glove winner Evan Bush are fighting for the starting spot, with Sutton saying the position is very much still up for grabs.
As the excitement surrounding the new season builds both within the squad and in Quebec, Marsch is confident that the city of Montreal and the Impact can make a good impression on MLS, both on and off the field.
“It's a European-type culture,” Marsch said. “We're all hopeful that this can feel like a real soccer environment where the fans are into it, are educated and have a good team to support. It has the makings of something special, and as a team we are working hard to bring it together.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. He can be reached via email@example.com.