MONTREAL – For the first time in their brief MLS journey, a different Montreal Impact will take the field on Saturday against New York (4 pm ET; TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in USA).
Head coach Jesse Marsch started the same 11 players for the first three games of the season, but will have to make some changes ahead of this weekend’s game at Red Bull Arena. There has been no confirmation of potential switches in midfield or in attack, but Jeb Brovsky’s suspension means Marsch is definitely giving someone their debut at right back.
WATCH: Brovsky sees red for elbow
With the shock elimination of the United States Under-23 team from Olympic qualifying, Zarek Valentin, who was widely expected to be the first choice right back this season, has re-joined the Impact and will be available this Saturday. The former Chivas USA defender is not a shoo-in for that position against the Red Bulls, though.
“It’s a big heartbreak for [Valentin] and the team not making the Olympics,” Marsch told reporters this week. “We’ll see where he’s at mentally and physically – how sharp he is – and then factor that in with what’s best for the group, because I think that Calum [Mallace] has shown the group that he’s sharp, fit, mentally strong and ready to go.”
While Mallace (pictured above), who has been converted into a right back from his usual midfield position since being drafted with the 20th overall pick in January’s MLS SuperDraft, has not taken part in a league game yet this season, he is adamant he is ready to go, even against a potent threat such as Thierry Henry.
“Before the game and after, it’s something special,” Mallace admitted, “but during the game, I won’t look up and say, ‘Thierry Henry’s coming at me,’ you know. You just play your game with everything you’ve got. There’s some nerves, but not much. I’ve never been one to get very nervous.”
Despite a bittersweet return to Montreal, Valentin is now focused on helping the Impact get a first MLS win at Red Bull Arena where, incidentally, around 200 Bleu-Blanc-Noir fans are expected. Valentin is still unsure whether he will get a chance to start on Saturday, though.
“I honestly don’t know,” Valentin explained. “I’m just trying to be as prepared as I can, and when Jesse makes a decision, that’ll be final. But I know that Calum’s been playing very well. It’s upsetting Jeb got a red card, but hopefully, I’ll be in there if I can and I’ll do my best.”