Five Montreal Impact players have been spending the past week on international duty.
Canadians, Samuel Piette, winning his 41st cap, and Zachary Brault-Guillard his 3rd, played the full 90 mins in Les Rouges’ 4-1 success over French Guiana which guaranteed Gold Cup and CONCACAF Nations League qualification.
Piette played in midfield, alongside Atiba Hutchinson and Toronto FC’s Jonathan Osorio, and Brault-Guillard occupied the right-back berth.
It was Canada’s fourth consecutive win in a mildly competitive Nations League qualifying campaign in which they scored 18 times and won four out of four. Croatian-based Kevin Rimane’s equalizer for French Guiana at BC Place was the only goal conceded.
During the campaign, nineteen year-old Jonathan David, based in Belgium with KAA Gent, became the first Canadian teenager ever, to score 4 goals in his first 4 international appearances.
Elsewhere, it’s been more frustrating for Saphir Taider and Daniel Lovitz. Last Friday Taider’s Algeria secured the point they needed against Gambia to qualify for the 2020 African Nations Cup finals, however the Montreal player did not see action, remaining on the bench throughout the contest. Tomorrow’s friendly against Tunisia, the country of his father’s birth, may bring better news for Impact’s in-form midfielder. It’s at Stade Mustapha-Tacker in Blider, where Taider has scored four of his five international career goals and of course he’ll be hoping to start.
Should Saphir play he will be awarded his 39th cap.
The USA had another good friendly win, this time 1-0 through a fortunate Gyasi Zardes strike late in the game. The Columbus man’s shot took a looping deflection, but still should have been fielded by the Ecuadorian ‘keeper. Gregg Berhalter’s record since assuming the reins now stands at played 3, won 3, with a goal difference of 6-0.
Dan Lovitz played at left-back in the first two of those games, but sat on the bench for the entire game against the South Americans. Fulham’s Tim Ream returned to the squad, captained the eleven and assumed the role that Lovitz had occupied. It remains to be seen if Lovitz will be recalled, or at least get game time in tomorrow’s contest against Chile in Houston.
Finally 21-year-old Orji Okwonkwo has been away with the Nigerian u23 side which needed to prevail in a double-header over Libya to advance to the next qualification round for the 2019 AFCON u23 Championship. Nigeria are the defending champions and it’s a tournament from which Olympic Games qualification will be decided.
Having arrived just the day before, Okwonkwo did not appear in the first leg, played on artificial turf in Tunisia at the Ben Guerdane Stadium in the city of the same name. Something that probably did him no harm, as the Super Eaglets went down 0-2, in a shock verdict.
Coach Imama Amapakabo was at the mercy of much finger-pointing for relying basically on foreign-based players, in preference to several talents in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
But for today’s return match, he still relied quite heavily on the foreigners to dig themselves from the hole in which they found themselves. This time he included Okwonkwo from the start. And while the star of the show was undoubtedly hat-trick hero Victor Osimhen, ALL NIGERIA SOCCER had this to say of Okwonkwo’s performance ...
“Brilliant link-up play from Orji. Found his teammates often with nicely executed passes in the final third and really looked calm.”
The Nigerians overcame the two goal deficit, scoring four times without replay, and now await news of their next two-legged opponents, a series that will take place in June, to decide who qualifies for the AFCON u23 finals in Egypt.
Impact coach, Remi Garde will be keeping fingers crossed that all return injury-free and not too fatigued from their respective international assignments, as he prepares for a rigid test in Kansas City against Sporting on Saturday.