MONTREAL – “Sacrebleu!”
That’s probably what went through Zarek Valentin’s mind when Diego Chara's cleats slammed into his right calf during stoppage time of Montreal’s 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers this past weekend. Valentin, whose French is improving every day, crashed to the Olympic Stadium’s artificial turf, writhing in pain, and later received help from a few strangers on the Montreal subway in order to get back home.
Valentin is not the only injury concern for Impact head coach Jesse Marsch ahead of Wednesday’s Amway Canadian Championship semifinal first leg against Toronto FC (8 pm ET, Sportsnet Ontario). Justin Mapp’s fitness will be a gameday decision due to a hamstring knock.
Lamar Neagle (above) is the most likely option to replace Mapp in the midfield. And Jeb Brovsky is a probable replacement for Valentin.
Brovsky has remained on the bench since the Impact’s 1-0 loss at Real Salt Lake on April 4, but the former Vancouver Whitecaps defender brings previous Canadian Championship experience to bear.
“It was exciting last year, I remember playing Montreal and it was a battle, for sure,” Brovsky said. “Sometimes, the semifinals are even tougher than the final.”
If he gets the nod, Brovsky would face the in-form Eric Avila, who had a goal and set up a penalty in the Reds’ 3-2 loss to RSL over the weekend. That defeat kept TFC winless on the season, and Brovsky and his teammates are well aware of the dangers of a wounded team.
“Toronto haven’t gotten the points that they wanted, but they’re a dangerous team,” Brovsky said. “We’ve seen it last week in Salt Lake, so we’re not taking them lightly.”
As to Valentin, he expects to be back in action for next week’s second leg. But considering his good form prior to the injury, his absence is a bitter pill to swallow.
“I’m super bummed,” Valentin told reporters after practice on Tuesday. “I've seen how much the city loves [the Canadian Championship]. But it’s a part of the game. You’ve got to take it with a grain of salt and get better.”