After a month watching from the sidelines, star striker Marco Di Vaio will likely dress for Montreal when the last-place Impact (1-5-4) face the Colorado Rapids (4-4-3) in Denver on Saturday.
"I think I'm ready to go," said Di Vaio on Wednesday before the team left for the American southwest. "I trained yesterday, alone at first and then with the team. And today I took part in the whole session. I feel good after the injury. I can go."
The star striker injured his hamstring on April 19 in a 4-0 road defeat to Sporting Kansas City, leaving the game in the 56th minute. He then played in most of Montreal's victory over the Philadelphia Union the following week, but has since missed the club's last four games.
"Obviously, if Marco comes back, it will help," assistant coach Mauro Biello told reporters on Wednesday. "We have a good record when he's in the lineup. We're just waiting for him to be at 100 per cent."
Despite only scoring once in five appearances this season, Di Vaio's return could spark a struggling club looking to build on back-to-back respectable results. Montreal played to a 1-1 draw against second-place D.C. United last Saturday three days after a midweek victory over NASL side FC Edmonton in the Amway Canadian Championship.
"The confidence is growing," Impact defender Jeb Brovsky told the team's website. "As a team, the chemistry is going up. This team is going in the right direction. It takes only two or three games to really change things around in a season. We have a tough road game. It's time to see what we're made of."
With seven points from 10 games, the MLS-worst Impact are looking to climb from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The team has only scored three goals in its last five MLS games.
Two of those were courtesy of striker Jack McInerney, who has now scored five times in all competitions since joining the Impact in April. And while the combination of McInerney and Di Vaio up front in a two-striker formation has yet to click for Montreal, the team is hoping the two connect for goals on Saturday.
"We're happy that Jack is scoring goals, and that Marco is coming back," said Biello. "We have to keep working on that chemistry up front. With players like that, we can give a lot of trouble to our opponents."
Montreal will hope to trouble a Colorado side going through struggles of its own. The team has only scored four goals in its last six games, and is coming off consecutive losses for the first time this season. Last week, defender Drew Moor scored his first goal of the season late in the game, a consolation prize in a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.
While Di Vaio may be returning to the Impact lineup, the Rapids will still be without top-scorer Vicente Sanchez, who sprained his knee in a May 3 win. Sanchez has scored five goals this season — four of those from the penalty spot.
"(The Rapids) have a few injuries," said Biello. "But they have a lot of speed up front and a lot of quality in the midfield. We're expecting a team that's looking for a victory, especially at home. They lost their last home game. We have to be ready for a team that will push and pressure us."
The Impact will also have to cope with high altitude. Denver is nicknamed the Mile-High City because, at one mile above sea level, it is one of the most elevated cities in the United States. For Montreal, it will mean a risk of dehydration and altitude sickness.
"The altitude is definitely an issue," said Denver-born Brovsky. "We are a fit team, so that should help. But we'll have to make sure that we aren't running around aimlessly."
Excited to be going back to his home city, Brovsky promised to fill a section of Dick's Sporting Goods Park with Impact supporters.
"I already made a lot of calls, and a lot of people are amped up," he said. "So hopefully we have a home atmosphere in Colorado. Hopefully they'll be pretty rowdy — which I know my family are."
Notes: Newcomer midfielder Issey Nakajima-Farran could make his Impact debut against the Rapids. The Canadian international was acquired by Montreal last week from Toronto FC. … The Impact have lost both their games against the Rapids since joining MLS. … Marc Burch (hamstring) and Nathan Sturgis (foot) are both doubtful for the Rapids. … The Impact and Rapids won't meet again this season.