Entering Wednesday’s game against the New York Red Bulls, Montreal Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum realized he had to manage player minutes with two games in four days.
So the Swiss tactician employed Patrice Bernier and Sanna Nyassi at Red Bull Arena from the opening whistle and gave a rest to Collen Warner and – Thierry Henry might not have been expecting this one – star forward Marco Di Vaio.
At 36, Di Vaio still manages to impress the Impact staff with his fitness, but gone are the days when the Italian striker could string several complete games together. After a 65-minute appearance in San Jose this weekend, Di Vaio came on as a 66th minute substitute with the score at 2-0 for New York. He helped pull a goal back and very nearly clinched a stoppage-time equalizer.
Asked whether he should have sent Di Vaio on earlier, Schällibaum replied by praising the work of second-year player Andrew Wenger, who replaced Di Vaio up top, as well as the efforts by Felipe and Andrés Romero to create chances before Montreal’s designated player entered the match. He also pointed out that Montreal will be back on the field this Saturday against Real Salt Lake (2 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
“Marco can’t play [the whole game] today and Saturday,” Schällibaum told reporters on Wednesday night. “He can’t, so I went this way. Other players did a very, very good job today. Of course, when Marco comes on, he brings something powerful, and he did score. The first XI, from a tactical standpoint, did really well.”
In all likelihood, Schällibaum will also retrieve a key part of his midfield this Saturday. Team captain Davy Arnaud, out with concussion-like symptoms since a headed clearance gone wrong in the 6-0 thrashing of Toronto FC in the Amway Canadian Championship last Wednesday, is expected to wear the armband again against RSL.
Alessandro Nesta's return is a stretch, however. The 2006 World Cup winner could be fit for the first leg of the ACC final on May 15, but in the meantime, Schällibaum can count on his iron men, Jeb Brovsky and Hassoun Camara in defense. Both have barely stopped playing of late: Wednesday’s game was their fifth in 15 days, and they played every one in full.
“I’m really trying to mix things up so we have fresh players, but there are two or three positions where we don’t have many options because of injuries,” Schällibaum said earlier this week. “Jeb and Hassoun are stockpiling minutes … but they recuperate quickly.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.