MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact already had three reasons to win the Amway Canadian Championship final: knock out their archrival, progress to the CONCACAF Champions League and raising a trophy despite the difficult start to their season.
Since the second minute of Wednesday’s first leg, they have a fourth.
“We hope to win the Cup for Nelson,” Marco Di Vaio told reporters on Thursday.
Going off injured two minutes in is upsetting. Going off injured two minutes into your first game in seven months is galling. Center back Nelson Rivas’ expression as Patrice Bernier tried to console him on Wednesday night said as much.
Rivas was aiming to earn the fruit of his labor since his latest injury setback, a hamstring knock picked up during preseason, still hopeful that he would add to the 12 MLS regular-season and playoff games his body has let him play in the last two-and-a-half seasons. It was hard, as Rivas limped off, not to feel sad for him.
“The other players saw what efforts he put in,” Bernier said on Thursday. “He got back into the group, and it’s always different when you on the side, injured. You get back into the group, you recover a certain frame of mind. He’s always smiling. It’s tough for both the group and Nelson. And on the field, we felt he was a piece that could have helped us a lot from then on.”
Head coach Frank Klopas, who recalled struggling for two years with "ACL surgeries and infections,” was at a loss to explain this latest setback. Based on Rivas’ response in training, the idea for Wednesday, Klopas said, had been to give him somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes.
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“It’s just unfortunate, because here’s a guy that, since he’s been here, wants to offer and do so much for the club and he hasn’t been able to,” Klopas said. “I understand that frustration. It’s never an easy moment for him. He’s been training, he goes in, and within two minutes, to have that setback, from a psychological standpoint, it’s difficult.”
So much so that the club will let Rivas pick himself up for a bit before assessing his condition.
“His mentality right now, he’s not in a good frame of mind,” Klopas said. “That’s understandable. We’ll see where he is in the next couple of days and, obviously, we’ll have to make some decisions going forward.”