MONTREAL – All signs point to Jesse Marsch starting his eighth different center back pairing in 24 games on Saturday.
Alessandro Nesta (above) and Nelson Rivas, who complemented each other well in a friendly against France's Olympique Lyonnais on Tuesday, should be given the nod as the Impact welcome the dangerous strike force of the top-of-the-East New York Red Bulls at Stade Saputo (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Injuries have been an almost permanent feature at the back since the very beginning of the Impact’s season, forcing Marsch to rearrange his back line frequently. This week, though, the Montreal boss is just happy that he has to take recovery, rather than injury, into account.
“We just have to be careful,” Marsch told reporters, “with how many guys we put on the field from the start that we aren’t sure if they can make 90.”
Having already played 63 minutes against Lyon, Nesta could go one step further and play all 90 minutes of his MLS debut. Rivas, for his part, could increase his playing time from 45 minutes to 60 and give way to Matteo Ferrari, who feels he can help the team with a good half-hour.
The Impact will certainly appreciate all the help they can get on Saturday, as they try to avoid the sweep in their three-game series against New York – the Red Bulls already beat Montreal 5-2 and 2-1 earlier this season.
As they prepare to encounter the likes of Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper and Sébastien Le Toux, Nesta’s league debut and the return of Rivas and Ferrari come at the right time. Their experience will likely help Montreal minimize the number of chances the opposition enjoys at Stade Saputo, but more than anything, their presence will be a mental boost to the whole group.
“They’re going to be a plus in the crucial moments, which they’re used to,” midfielder Patrice Bernier said. “They can help the rest of the team calm down, remain level-headed. By remaining composed, the guys can tell themselves ‘OK, it’s going alright, we don’t have to just punt the ball away.’”
Di Vaio could face ban
The latest match-fixing scandal in Italy could affect the Montreal Impact, as forward Marco Di Vaio has been accused of failing to disclose knowledge of an attempted sporting fraud. Di Vaio was allegedly aware of teammate Daniele Portanova’s attempt to fix a May 2011 game between their team Bologna and Bari, and he could face a three to six-month ban.
The Impact declined to comment on the issue, though head coach Jesse Marsch indicated he was “not worried.”