MONTREAL – “It just sucks, man.”
Zarek Valentin has a way of convincing you that he means this sentence, a favorite among players dealing with injury, more than anyone else in the history of mankind.
The 21-year-old is picking up the pace at Impact training these days, which means that the ankle sprain he picked up in the first half of a 3-0 defeat away at the Houston Dynamo last month is almost behind him. This injury, along with the calf contusion that sidelined him for more than a month earlier this season, has left Valentin in a quite unfamiliar situation.
“It’s frustrating, because this is my first year, as long as I remember, that I’ve been injured this much,” Valentin told reporters. “Usually, I’m good for 25, 30 games a year.”
But there is cause for optimism: after playing 45 minutes in the Impact’s 1-0 Reserve League win over New York on Tuesday, Valentin is positive that his ankle is ready to withstand a more challenging test, specifically what would be his 16th MLS game this season against D.C. United at Stade Saputo this Saturday.
As of late, though, Montreal’s defensive play is as impressive as it’s ever been this season, and the team player in Valentin leads him to believe that, despite the eagerness to get back to business, it might be better not to disrupt the current chemistry.
“We’re on a good streak right now, you don’t want to mess anything up, and I completely understand that,” Valentin acknowledged. “I put the team before myself. If I help the team with morale, or whatever it might be, I’m there. If they need me to play, then I’ll be ready as well.”
Jeb Brovsky’s and Dennis Iapichino’s recent performances have apparently convinced head coach Jesse Marsch that status quo is the way to go on the flanks for now. But should the Impact be defending a lead in the late stages of Saturday’s game against D.C., Valentin might be called upon for some extra defensive cover.
“With Zarek, it's good to have him get back to full strength,” Marsch said “The guys that have filled in for him have done well, so I don’t expect us to make a change on that end to start, but certainly, having him on the bench, it’s a good guy to be able to consider putting on the field.”