MONTREAL – Impact head coach Frank Klopas was always going to change his lineup on Sunday against the Portland Timbers at Stade Saputo (8 pm ET, MLS Live). But his homework got complicated.
Already without the injured defenders Adrian Lopez and Eric Miller, as well as midfielders Sanna Nyassi and Gorka Larrea, Klopas will see Issey Nakajima-Farran also sit Sunday’s game, courtesy of a sending off at Real Salt Lake on Thursday. And the late flight back from Utah was a rough one, with a 9:30am ET return home on Friday and a violent storm during a refueling stop hours before.
The players have strived to recover the best they can, and Klopas made substitutions in Salt Lake with Sunday in mind. But some tired legs remain, and they’ll have to play just the same.
“That’s just part of it,” Klopas told reporters on Saturday afternoon. “Some guys do recover a little bit better than others. Some guys are a little bit younger than others, which always helps. Sometimes, we rotated some guys, and now, we can’t make too many changes and some guys are going to have to play.”
But Klopas is still confident they’ll be ready to go against a Timbers team coming off a precious win against the Colorado Rapids.
“It’s a good team,” Klopas said of Portland. “Their middle is obviously a strong point, but I think, with our midfield, we have quality players, and I think we just have to not force the ball at times and give ourselves some rhythm in the game.”
Especially at home. If the Impact are to push for the playoffs with a deficit that grew into the double digits on Saturday night, they’ll have to be nearly flawless at Stade Saputo.
They’ll also need road wins, which is probably why they expect Portland, three points away from the red line in the West, to come out flying in enemy territory, looking for a road win of their own and holding on to the ball as much as possible.
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“Once we get the ball from them, we have to find the spaces quickly going into transition, counterattack,” team captain Patrice Bernier told reporters.
Already a demanding task, chasing the ball could be exhausting in the circumstances. But Bernier says the team just has to call upon its mental strength.
“If you tell yourself you can push, you can give 60, 70, 90, 45 minutes,” Bernier said. “We have players on the bench who are ready to come on and make a difference as well.”