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Home Canadian Press Impact re-focus on MLS season after Champions League run; start with Timbers

Impact re-focus on MLS season after Champions League run; start with Timbers

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact are looking to start over with a clean slate.

After dedicating the last four weeks to the CONCACAF Champions League final, the Impact now turn their attention back to Major League Soccer when they welcome the Portland Timbers to Saputo Stadium on Saturday.

The Impact, which started the MLS season 0-2-2 before focusing on the two-legged Champions League final, have not played a league match since April 11.

“We’re hitting the reset button,” said goalkeeper Evan Bush before practice on Friday. “We feel like it’s a fresh start for us. We have some catching up to do.”

Montreal is last in the Eastern Conference with two points from its first four games, though the Impact have played, on average, five fewer games than the rest of the league. Montreal remains the only MLS club without a win.

Frank Klopas’s men have scored two goals and conceded six in their current campaign and have been shut out in three of their first four matches.

“It’s time for us to start getting points,” said defender Bakary Soumare, one of Montreal’s many off-season additions. “It’s time for us to climb in the standings. And it starts (Saturday).

“There’s no urgency yet, but we definitely feel like we need to win to avoid digging ourselves into a hole that could be difficult to get out of.”

Montreal’s upcoming schedule suggests positive results are on the horizon. The Impact play their next three league games at Saputo Stadium, where they are undefeated in their last nine in all competitions.

Montreal is 7-1-5 on home soil in its last 13 matches — the team’s only loss was in the second leg of the Champions League final at Olympic Stadium last week.

“It’s an opportunity for us to collect some points,” said Bush of Montreal’s three consecutive home games. “Hopefully at the end of this month we can look back and say it was a productive month for us.”

The Impact are coming off a 1-0 victory against Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday in which Montreal fielded several of its starters.

As a result, winger Domnic Oduro and defender Laurent Ciman — both played a full 90 minutes versus Toronto in midweek — could be on the bench on Saturday. But with day-to-day injuries in the backfield to Victor Cabrera, Hassoun Camara and Donny Toia, Klopas’ hands are a little tied when it comes to tinkering with his roster.

“You can’t expect too many big changes,” he said. “We have to rotate the guys. Some guys have to play because we don’t have other options. We have to manage that while putting a team that’s going to give us the win.”

Standing in Montreal’s way are the eighth-place Timbers (2-3-4), who are off to a rough start this season. Portland was shut out in its last two matches and has scored just once in its last four.

Portland’s struggling offence will get a boost from the return of midfielder Diego Valeri, who made his season debut last Saturday as a substitute after tearing his ACL in the final game of the 2014 season. The Argentine, who scored 11 goals for the Timbers last year, could make his first start of the season versus the Impact.

“That’s another attacking and creative player they have to worry about,” Portland’s Alvas Powell told the Timbers website on Wednesday, speaking of Valeri. “I’m sure the whole team is happy to have him back because he creates for us a lot of chances and he scores goals.”

Notes: Portland’s Will Johnson, who’s recovering from a broken leg, will not play versus Montreal. … Fanendo Adi has three of the Timbers’ seven goals this year.

Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press

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