MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact will get their first glimpse of the new, tighter MLS schedule this week. The bleu-blanc-noir are traveling to play D.C. United Tuesday night, four days after drawing New York City FC 0-0.
“For me, personally, I like that,” Zakaria Diallo said about the team’s situation. “I love stringing games every three days. We train a little less and we show up during the games, I like it. It doesn’t bother me in the least.”
The number of games played on weekdays raised from five last year to eight on the Impact’s 2019 calendar. The team will also need to factor in the minimum of two additional midweek games for the Canadian Championship. The Impact’s midweek record last season—including the Canadian Championship—was 3-4-0 with all four losses coming from away games.
Diallo did not have the experience of playing in MLS’ longer schedule last season due to a torn Achilles tendon. However the centerback said he and his teammates knew “for a long time” that games would be closer together in 2019.
“We are conscious about it but after that we need to do what is necessary to be fit in training or at home,” Diallo said. It’s important when you’re stringing games you need to eat well, sleep well. It’s important. We are professionals so we need to be ready and smart.”
For Jukka Raitala, this new reality will test the depth of the Impact’s “big roster” and it will be on them to adapt.
“So it’s important that everybody stays focussed and fit all the time,” Raitala said. “But I think it’s mental when you play three games a week then it’s about who really want to win those games. I’m happy about the result [in New York City] and we’re going to do the same [Tuesday].”
Both teams without their best assets
The Impact’s visit to Audi Field will look much different than what fans thought when buying tickets in advance.
On the Impact’s side, Ignacio Piatti is still sidelined with a leg injury. Maxi Urruti will also miss the game due to a red card during the NYCFC game. DC United will also be without star player Wayne Rooney who also took a red card in a 4-0 home loss to LAFC.
The comms on this Rooney red card:
‘But was it clear and obvious…’
— Ben Haines (@benhainess) April 7, 2019
With Rooney unavailable, the Impact is eyeing to take advantage. With both stars out of the picture, the preparation can change for Impact and its backline.
“On their side with Rooney, I think he is an important player so it’s good for us that he’s absent,” said Diallo. “I think that Rooney is a very big player for them and it could change things for them [on Tuesday’s game].”
The Impact will be heading to DC with revenge in the back of their collective mind. Last season, the Impact’s playoff hopes were seriously shaken when Rooney scored twice in a 5-0 thrashing back in September.
“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.”