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Impact Hopes to Illuminate Capital Despite Missing Stars

This evening’s game appears to be more about those who won’t be there ...

MLS: Rowdies Suncoast Invitiational-Montreal Impact at DC United
Rooney and Piatti missing - can it still be a bright night without these stars?
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a noble thing to want to beat your opponent while they’re at full-strength, but no-one at Montreal Impact will be complaining too loudly at Wayne Rooney’s unavailability prior to their second-ever visit to Audi Stadium this evening.

In fact there may have been quite a few in the City of a Hundred Steeples who muffled a little “Yes!” complete with clenched fist, when the former Manchester United striker was flashed red by referee Robert Sibiga at the weekend.

Rooney played a major part in DC’s 5-0 destruction of the Impact towards the end of last season. At the time this was IMFC’s record MLS defeat.

“Of course he’s a fantastic player but he’s just one guy and they have many many great players there,” Raitala said of Rooney. “Whoever replaces him will be a strong player and we have to be ready. It’s good to keep in mind about what happened last year.”

MLS: Montreal Impact at D.C. United
Two-goal Wayne Rooney tussles with Sam Piette and Rod Fanni on a bad night for IMFC last September.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Rooney was also the catalyst in his team’s run to the Play-offs. From a fairly hopeless situation prior to his arrival, Rooney’s influence on those around him propelled the side from also-rans to contenders.

It didn’t all quite work out of course, but Saturday’s defeat at home to LAFC was still DCU’s first in 15 regular season games after the Rooney Revolution had gained momentum.

“In possession, not good enough,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said of the performance. “Out of possession, not hard working enough. Our pulse was wrong from the get go in the biggest game of the year. So that part is concerning, and I’ll look to myself first.”

On the flip side, DC will also be encouraged by Piatti’s absence from the Impact line-up. The Argentine will be missing his third game in succession, and Montreal has not won away from home without Piatti since a 4-2 victory at New England in September 2013!

There could be parallels. Will Rooney’s exclusion have a similar effect on his team as Piatti’s undoubtedly has on the Impact?

We don’t really know the answer to that one yet, however before Rooney started a game for DC they had won 3 out of 17 in MLS. Since making that first start against Colorado Rapids last July, DCU won 14 and lost only 2 of their next 21 regular season games.

There are other notables of course in the DC line-up. In addition to diminutive play-maker, “Lucho” Acosta, they have seen other players like Paul Arriola and Russell Canouse blossom since Rooney joined the club. Until Saturday, they looked a side purring with the confidence a long unbeaten run instils, but LA put a severe dent in their smooth start to 2019. What effect that, and the absence of England’s record goalscorer will bring, remains to be seen.

As understudy to Rooney, former Impact player Quincy Amarikwa may be in line to start his first game for his new club.

MLS: Montreal Impact at Orlando City SC
Orji Okwonkwo could have a more central role in Remi Garde’s team tonight.
Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

For Montreal, Remi Garde must decide who deputizes for Maxi Urruti, like Rooney, a first-ever MLS red card recipient at the weekend.

If the French coach keeps Novillo, who wasn’t a huge success on Yankee Stadium’s flying carpet, on the left, then it may be a straight choice between Orji Okwonkwo and Anthony Jackson-Hamel. Should Okwonko get the nod, his now accustomed berth on the right-hand side may go to Clement Bayiha or Mathieu Choiniere if the latter has regained fitness.

Projected Line-Ups -

DCU - Hamid - Jara, Birnbaum, Pines, Segura - Moreno, Canouse - Arriola, Acosta, Rodrigues - Amarikwa

IMFC - Bush - Sagna, Raitala, Diallo, Lovitz - Piette, Azira, Bayiha, Taider - Novillo, Okwonkwo.