MONTREAL – The Impact were playing a CONCACAF Champions League final. A perfect time to be forced into lineup changes, right?
As expected, lower body injuries kept Victor Cabrera and Hassoun Camara out of the second leg of the CCL final against Club América on Wednesday at the Olympic Stadium. Head coach Frank Klopas elected to field central midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker at right back.
“I got asked to do a job,” Reo-Coker told reporters postgame. “I hadn’t played there for over two years now. I got asked to do a job, and I did it the best I could. We did well. I don’t know what to say, really, if I’m honest.”
As a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps, Reo-Coker had excelled at that position in a 0-0 draw in Montreal in the Amway Canadian Championship. It was a much different result this time.
América scored four times in the second half, rampaging to a 4-2 (5-3 on aggregate) win at the Olympic Stadium. The shuffling of the lineup probably didn’t help, but no one was playing the blame game after the match.
“Nigel delivered,” team captain Patrice Bernier said. “I know it’s not his position but he’s filled in where he was elsewhere before. He did the best he could at that position, but now we have to hope that these guys come back in a week or so and prepare, because we have a lot of games coming up and to start taking points in MLS and the Canadian Cup, also.”
Added defender Laurent Ciman: “Nigel didn’t play at a spot he’s used to playing, although he did when he was younger. We had to make decisions. The coach made them.”
“I was sitting up there and looking around, we had Justin Mapp next to me, Cameron Porter, Hassoun, Victor Cabrera played big roles in this run and all of us couldn’t play tonight for whatever reason, whether it be injury, suspension,” goalkeeper Evan Bush said. “To get this far with all these different guys not being able to contribute in the final, it’s a testament to the depth and to the spirit of this group.”
Bush was watching from the stands because of suspension. Enter Kristian Nicht, signed earlier this week from Indy Eleven. On his CCL debut, Nicht conceded four, but his teammates and coach were thankful for his contribution.
“What can Kristian do? I think he had a very good performance, just like the rest of the team,” Klopas said. “There’s no excuses, but I think the kid came in with his experience and it showed. You can’t blame him. With the quality they have, if you give up opportunities at the top of the box like that, they’re going to make you pay and they did.”