SPORTS

Impact hope new-look lineup with Bernardello leads to more road wins

08/30/2013 06:34 EDT | Updated 10/30/2013 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Now that Hernan Bernardello has settled in with the Montreal Impact, perhaps the new designated player from Argentina call tell them something about winning games away from home.

The Impact (12-7-5) looked stunning in their new starting alignment with Bernardello and veteran Patrice Bernier anchoring the midfield as they won their last two games at home, including last week's 5-0 pasting of Sporting Kansas City.

They hope to make it three wins in a row when they face the Union (10-8-8) in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Except that the Impact are 0-3-2 on the road since their last win in Kansas City on June 1.

But the squad has a new look with Bernardello in the starting 11, helping to reduce space for opponents on the defensive side of the ball and to get the ball forward to Major League Soccer scoring leader Marco Di Vaio and the other attacking players.

"He's an experienced player who has played at a high level," midfielder Justin Mapp said Friday. "With him sitting alongside Patrice it brings two experienced guys who are good on the ball and can win the ball back for us when we push numbers forward on the counter or whatever."

The 26-year-old's arrival has moved coach Marco Schallibaum and his staff to tweak the starting lineup.

It has the same back line with Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari in the central defence between Hassoun Camara and Jeb Brovsky. Bernier and Bernardello play at the back of the midfield, with Mapp and Andres Romero on the wings, Felipe Martins in the centre and Di Vaio up front.

They bumped captain Davy Arnaud from the lineup, but he has been coming off the bench in recent games.

The Impact say the lineup is not cast in stone, but it looked like something worth keeping together against Kansas City.

"It's important to have a typical team, but in the end, we're a group and we've seen that every player can bring something to the team," said Camara. "Davy Arnaud didn't start last week, but when he came in he brought something.

"We're 27 in our group and we all bring something."

The team will be have assistant coach Mauro Biello running the bench for a second game in a row as Schallibaum completes his two-game suspension for a blow-up against D.C. United two weeks ago.

But the Swiss Volcano, suspended four times this season, has been active in training all week and his message has been about getting off to strong starts on the road.

A list was posted in the locker room showing that in their last five road games the team has surrendered a goal within six minutes three times. Another came in the 10th minute and the other in the 19th.

That is not a recipe for winning.

"It's something you work on mostly from the mental aspect," said Biello. "We did that this week and we're hoping to be ready from the start.

"For a while now when we've been on the road we've had defensive problems. We'll try to change that and not give the opponent as much space."

It will help that the team is on a high after winning big against Kansas City.

Di Vaio scored twice for a second game in a row and leads MLS with 15 goals. Felipe, Brovsky and substitute Andrea Pisanu also scored, while Mapp had two assists and hit a crossbar.

The win put Montreal into first place in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand on their closest pursuers.

But as good as they've been at home, they have won only three times on the road this season.

It won't be easy in Philadelphia, where the Union are smarting from a 5-1 loss to New England in their last outing.

The Union are dangerous on attack with Sebastien Le Toux, who leads MLS with 12 assists, and forwards Jack McInerney, who has 10 goals, and Conor Casey, who has scored nine.

There is concern for Ferrari, who left practice early on Friday with an illness. Biello said only that recently signed Spaniard Adrian Lopez "is an option" if Ferrari is out.

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