SPORTS

Impact make changes, hope to boost playoff hopes with win over Philadelphia

07/13/2012 05:18 EDT | Updated 09/12/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Coach Jesse Marsch felt it was time to talk to the Montreal Impact about the heavy traffic of players being traded away or brought in over the last two weeks.

The message was that the Impact are not throwing in the towel on their expansion season in Major League Soccer. They're trying to make the club stronger for the second-half push for a playoff spot.

''I spoke to the team today and I told them we liked the group and that even though we're making changes, we don't want to breed insecurity within the team,'' Marsch said Friday. ''We try to communicate with guys on where they stand, what things look like.

''Any time you have a team you're trying to get better. We're not looking to dismantle anything. We feel good about a lot of the pieces here.''

The Impact (6-11-3) are in the midst of a stretch of games against the Eastern Conference teams they will need to beat for any hope of post-season action.

Coming off a 2-1 win at home over seventh-place Columbus, the eighth-place Impact will visit the ninth-place Philadelphia Union (5-9-2) on Saturday night.

They will do it without defender Tyson Wahl, who was dealt to the Colorado Rapids on Friday for a 2014 international roster spot. In recent days the club also sent forward Justin Braun to Real Salt Lake for a conditional draft pick, loaned unused midfielder Bryan Arguez to FC Edmonton of the NASL and dealt the rights to Bobby Burling to Chivas USA for a 2013 international spot. MLS teams each have eight international roster spots, but can acquire more if they want. Montreal has nine this season.

In the same period, the Impact signed their biggest name yet in former Italian international defender Alessandro Nesta and also added Swiss-Italian left back Dennis Iapichino, who made the trip to Philadelphia and may be used as a substitute. Nesta is not expected to begin play for at least another week.

''It was great having Tyson here, but for both parties, the situation seemed right,'' Marsch said of Wahl, who played in 11 games but mainly was used as a substitute of late. ''He didn't ask for a trade, but once we started talking to him about different scenarios, he understood that logically it made sense.''

The players saw the moves as part of the pro sports business.

''It's tough to lose teammates,'' said right back Zarek Valentin. ''Tyson was a great guy. I hugged him four or five times today, but you realize the team is trying to put itself in the best spot. You can't worry about it. You have to go out and play your role, whether you're starting or whatever.''

Marsch is pleased to have two key midfielders, Felipe Martins and Davy Arnaud, back after serving one-game suspensions for yellow cards. That will give him as close to a regular starting 11 as possible with Hassoun Camara and Shavar Thomas filling in for injured centre backs Matteo Ferrari and Nelson Rivas.

Felipe is starting to develop chemistry with the club's first designated player Marco Di Vaio, playing just behind the Italian striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Di Vaio has yet to score in four games, but is getting closer each match.

Defence will be key against a Philadelphia team that has been hot of late, including league wins of 2-1 in Los Angeles and 3-0 against Toronto FC last week, as well as a 4-0 victory over Kansas City in late June.

But the Union suffered a 2-0 setback to Kansas City in U.S. Open Cup play on Wednesday and there is fear the club is flagging in the midst of a stretch of nine games in 27 days.

A win would put Philadelphia one point behind Montreal with three games in hand, while an Impact victory would boost their playoff hopes heading into games next week against sixth-place New England and fifth-place Houston. Some are calling it a six-pointer.

''If we can go on a bit of a run here and have a good week, especially against teams we're battling for playoff spots, it can really do a lot for us,'' said Impact captain Arnaud. ''These are the teams you prefer to play. You can affect their results as well as your own.''

With Felipe back, Justin Mapp can move back to the left wing after playing in the middle in the victory over Columbus. Mapp was selected from the Union in the expansion draft and will play his former team for the first time.

It will also be a big game for Valentin, who said there may be more than 300 family and friends at the match from his home town of Lancaster, Pa. at PPK Park.

The Braun trade leaves Montreal thin at forward. Sanna Nyassi will sit out a one-game suspension for yellow cards, while Bernardo Corradi and rookie Andrew Wenger are injured. Arnaud can play forward if needed.

A lkely starting 11 has Donovan Ricketts in goal, Valentin, Camara, Thomas and Jeb Brovsky on defence, Patrice Bernier and Collin Warner on the second line behind Mapp, Felipe and Arnaud, with Di Vaio as the lone forward.

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