MONTREAL — Rémi Garde won’t have many defenders to choose from when the Montreal Impact (3-8-0, 9 points) host Zlatan Ibrahimović and the LA Galaxy (3-6-1, 10 points) Monday at Stade Saputo.
“I have uncertainties about the state of certain players, most notably in central defense,” Garde said Friday. “I have a lot of reflection to do, but it’s still a little early to make a decision.”
The Montreal coach only has three defenders available: fullbacks Jukka Raitala and Chris Duvall, and centerback Rod Fanni. Michael Petrasso and Rudi Camacho trained Friday but are questionable. Daniel Lovitz is suspended after receiving a red card in last Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union, and Victor Cabrera is out with a calf injury. If Petrasso and Camacho aren’t ready to go, Garde could potentially be forced into a three-man defense, or move midfielder Raheem Edwards to right fullback.
Defensive shakeups aren’t anything new for Garde, who has had to cope with absentees in defense since the beginning of the season. It’s one reason the Impact have struggled to keep the ball out of their own net. With 26 goals conceded in just 11 games, the Impact have the worst defensive record in MLS.
“It’s difficult to settle in a defense, especially when you have so many injured players and you have to change the back line every week,” Garde said. “It’s not an easy situation for me; it’s not an easy situation for the team. Normally it’s where you want to have stability, but for some reason we are struggling in terms of stability and capacity to put the same players every weekend.”
Like the Impact, the Galaxy have also had their share of defensive problems. And they’re also in a slump, having lost their last four games. But with Ibrahimović in the attack, accompanied by the likes of Ola Kamara and Romain Alessandrini, they possess considerable firepower.
Garde, who has already faced Ibrahimović several times in his career when he coached Lyon and the Swede was playing for Paris St. Germain, said his players need to be extra attentive defensively.
“For sure Ibrahimović is someone we have to survey, but he’s also someone who’s capable of making himself forgotten for long periods of the game and then you think ‘maybe it’s not his day’ and then suddenly it becomes his day,” Garde said. From a concentration standpoint he’s a particular player to play against. We have to be vigilant. But we also have to be aware that there other players too.”
At a sold-out Stade Saputo, the Impact will be celebrating their 25th anniversary.
Goalkeeper Evan Bush, who’s been with the Impact since 2011, says the players have dealt with enough famous players in the past not to be left mesmerized by the Galaxy’s star attraction.
“It’s guys that you watch on TV for many years, maybe not idolize but watch with awe at their ability to do certain thing; Zlatan is no different,” Bush said. “Even the first game he played in MLS we were watching the game – I think we were in Seattle – and you can hear the guys yelling in their rooms (when Ibrahimovic scored). It was very exciting.
“Playing against certain guys like (Thierry) Henry, (David) Beckham in the past, having (Didier) Drogba here, it gives us the ability to not be in awe of him on the field. It’s just another game now. But certainly we need to be aware of where he is.”