MONTREAL – It's back-in-the-saddle time for the Montreal Impact, and it's already do-or-die.
MLS teams are entering the Amway Canadian Championship this week, and while it’s ‘only’ a semifinal, it really doesn’t get any bigger than Montreal against Toronto FC, this Wednesday night at Stade Saputo (7:30 pm ET, Sportsnet World).
In a way, this Wednesday’s game will be something of a second debut for the Impact this year, now that the 2014-15 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League is no more and the team finally returns to its rightful home.
But Montreal will be gifted no time to ease into their season. The rivalry between Eastern Canada's two major cities lives large. Fans will demand a win, as they always do against TFC.
“I was told [about the rivalry],” Laurent Ciman, who joined from Standard Liege this winter, told reporters. “I know it’ll be heated – like in Belgium, I think. It’s all going to be about duels, intimidation. I also hope there will be a good number of fans to help us, because we’re going to need them.”
They came in numbers at the Big O last week, supporting their team in the final stretch of the emotional rollercoaster that was the CCL. It ended in tears, but Montreal say they have moved on.
MLS and the ACC now loom, and while the league did reschedule three games to help Montreal in their CCL run, this is over now. No less than seven midweek games await the Impact in the remaining months of the season and the marathon begins this Wednesday, against their archrivals.
“We knew that, at the end of the day, after this final, it was going to be like that,” Impact forward Dominic Oduro, a former TFC standout, said. “Our preparation really is up there. We’re always trying to take in a lot of fluids, eat right and get ready for games. It’s going to be a fast pace going forward these coming months or weeks, but we’re ready for it.”
This offseason, the Impact repeated their intention of building quality depth. Now will be the time to assess the work that has been done.
- Find the latest Impact headlines at ImpactMontreal.com
“We have some important games coming up,” head coach Frank Klopas said. “It’s important to get off to a good start and not only win the games, but play well and start building some confidence in league play. But we have a lot of games in the next month, six weeks, and that’s why it’s very important, with some of the injuries we have, to get these guys healthy. As deep as we are, it’s going to be difficult for a lot of guys to play Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday with the travel.”
Those injuries leave a huge question mark over Montreal’s backline. Victor Cabrera and Hassoun Camara were already nursing lower-body injuries, and now standout left back Donny Toia has joined them on the injury list with an ankle knock sustained against Club América last week.
“We just have to see,” Klopas said. “There are a couple of guys, I think we paid the price a little bit with [CCL]. Hopefully, guys that aren’t healthy, it’s not long, [because] it might hurt us with the amount of games coming up.”