There’s more than a few Impact fans out there who feel their team can be most dangerous when the odds are stacked against. In some times of adversity, they have seen the Bleu/Blanc/Noir rise to the occasion and produce a surprise result.
They will need that type of belief when the Impact take on CD Olimpia, next Tuesday in Florida.
Already trailing 1-2 to the in-form Hondurans and the former club of Romell Quioto, Montreal must face up to the task in the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final second-leg without several members of the squad who in any other normal season would have been chomping-at-the-bit to play.
The most notable absentee is Bojan Krkic, now out of contract, even if not completely out of the picture. Bojan could still re-sign for the club despite his option not being exercised, although deciding not to play next week hardly bodes well.
Others who will be unavailable include Jorge Corrales (opted out) and Rod Fanni (personal reasons), while the following are all injured; Emanuel Maciel, Jean-Yves Ballou Tabla, Shamit Shome, Maxi Urruti, Lassi Lappalainen, Mathieu Choinière, Steeven Saba and Jukka Raitala.
The 23-man squad who will participate includes no fewer than three goalkeepers and eight players who have never started a senior game. The four new signings from the Academy have even yet to sit on the bench.
The full squad is -
Goalkeepers - Clément Diop, James Pantemis and Jonathan Sirois;
Defenders - Rudy Camacho, Luis Binks, Mustafa Kizza, Zachary Brault-Guillard, Joel Waterman, Karifa Yao, Clément Bayiha and Keesean Ferdinand;
Midfielders - Victor Wanyama, Samuel Piette, Amar Sejdic, Orji Okwonkwo, Tomas Giraldo, Nathan-Dylan Saliba, Rida Zouhir, Jean-Aniel Assi and Sean Rea;
Forwards - Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Mason Toye and Romell Quioto.
Jackson-Hamel has decided to remain with the club for the CONCACAF tournament despite not having his contract renewed.
On top of everything else the Impact has only just again begun training.
“Everyone has a little rust,” conceded Samuel Piette during a video conference this afternoon.
“We haven’t touched the ball for two weeks. The first session was not the best quality. Physically, we don’t have time for another training camp, so we have to get back into shape with the exercises.”
Piette went on, “There are plenty of question marks. The way we’re going to approach this game tactically, we haven’t gotten into that yet. At the moment, it’s not too difficult physical preparation. “
It will be incredibly challenging to turn this tie around against Olimpia, going extremely well mid way through their season. They will undoubtedly start as overwhelming favourites to progress.
But the sometimes captain remains hopeful...
“We want to go there without thinking that we are going to be washed,” said midfielder Samuel Piette on Monday at a press briefing. But thinking that we have a chance. Over 90 minutes, anything can happen.“
The situation is a shame since international club competition is the cream on top for any professional club. It’s not anyone’s fault, but the way Covid has disrupted this season has de-railed any hopes of the Impact adding internationally to it’s reputation in 2020.
It doubly disappointing as the chance to play internationally in 2021 disappeared a few months ago too, with defeat in Vancouver.
Fingers, toes and eyes crossed, you just never know, perhaps the Impact will produce another of those unexpected nights of triumph.
Should they prevail, things get increasingly more difficult. In the semi-final they would face the winner of New York City FC and Tigres of Mexico, 2019’s beaten finalists.