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Montreal Impact ‘stronger together’ as players return from international duty

The Montreal Impact are relieved that Samuel Piette will be able to lineup against Minnesota United Saturday.

Jun 29, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Montreal Impact players react after a goal by defender Zakaria Diallo (5) against Atlanta United during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

MONTREAL — For the first time in a while, the Montreal Impact have enough men to make nine-a-side drills at their training sessions.

“It’s true that it’s been a long time, the squad is a lot denser and we’re getting closer to game situations,” Saphir Taider said. “I think that everybody took pleasure in training and we’re getting on the right track because everyone’s coming back.”

As of Thursday, the only Impact players still missing from international duty were Daniel Lovitz (USA) and Michael Azira (Uganda). Taider added with a fuller squad the Impact can not only work on more drills in training, but it helps the team’s mental strength. Heading into Saturday’s game against Minnesota United, this is a huge boost for the bleu-blanc-noir.

“It helps because we feel stronger together,” Taider said. “In the past few weeks we really weren’t a lot and we were barely able to train. We were about a dozen on the game sheet so the coach must be happy, he must be getting his smile back.”

For Raitala, the Impact needed to take advantage of their freshness against a Minnesota team that played Wednesday. Despite the fact the Loons scored 10 goals in their last two games, the Impact want nothing but a win Saturday at Stade Saputo.

“We don’t focus so much on individuals, but rather on our game and things we need to improve,” he said. “It will be a tough game but we’re at home so we’ll only be happy with the three points.”

Samuel Piette back in lineup

Another mental victory for the Impact was seeing Samuel Piette back with the squad. The midfielder took a tough elimination with the Canadian men’s national team in the Gold Cup quarterfinals, but is back to help his team as soon as Saturday. 

“Sam is an important player and he showed that since I came in,” Taider said. “To be able to count on him this weekend will be great. He is someone that never let’s go of the defensive tasks, he racks up miles and we feel it. We’re happy he’s back, a little sad for him because he got eliminated, but he needs to turn the page.”

Jukka Raitala rejoiced the opportunity to regain one of the team’s leaders. The Finland international gave credit to players like Shamit Shome and Ken Krolicki who played in Piette’s absence. 

“Piette is really good with the ball, with positioning and controlling the tempo of the game,” he said. “Sam is a very important player for us. Saying that, the players that have played (in his place) have done a fantastic job.”

“Guys who are coming back need to fight for their place in the team and that’s just good for everybody,” Raitala added. “The quality goes higher in practice.”

Taider: Experience at left wing in its last moments

The Algerian international had to fill in at left wing the past three games with injuries and international call-ups. With four games at left wing in total, Taider understands that 2019 will be a year where he will need to accept playing outside his usual position from time to time. 

“It’s true that my position is box-to-box midfielder and with all the struggles we had this year I was moved to the left wing,” he said. “I honestly don’t mind, it’s a season like that we’ll need to suck it up. We need to fit the coach’s needs, it’s with this mentality that we’ll be able to make a difference so wherever I play, I’ll give whatever it takes.” 

Taider gave credit to his Raitala, who played behind Taider at left back and made his job easier. 

“The fact that I had Jukka on the left helped a lot,” Taider said. “He’s a defender that thinks a lot and is honestly very solid defensively. It helped me a lot to be freer offensively.”  

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