The Montreal Impact will end their brief Western road swing on Wednesday in San Jose without striker Didier Drogba and some other key players.
With a stretch of four games in 10 days set to begin against the Earthquakes, head coach Mauro Biello opted to send Drogba, Ignacio Piatti, Justin Mapp, Marco Donadel, Laurent Ciman and goalkeeper Evan Bush home for extra rest. A team spokesman confirmed Tuesday that those players would not be available.
Drogba (toe), Piatti (calf) and Mapp (foot) are also recovering from injuries, which factored in Biello’s decision. Ciman, meanwhile, is serving the second game of a two-match suspension.
The six players, who have accounted for 14 of the club’s 34 goals this year, left California for Montreal on Monday. The Impact played to a 0-0 draw in Los Angeles on Saturday.
“We have a huge week coming up at home against three conference teams,” Bush told reporters after the Galaxy game. “Looking at the results from the league, results are still going our way.
“I think that if we can win a few more games, we will be solidly in the playoffs.”
Montreal (9-11-5) is in a good position to make the Major League Soccer playoffs for the second time in its history. The Impact are sixth in the Eastern Conference with nine games remaining in the regular season and have games in hand on their closest rivals.
Following Wednesday’s clash with San Jose (11-11-6), Montreal plays consecutive home matches against New England, Chicago and D.C. United.
The Impact players are riding high after back-to-back positive results. Drogba scored a hat trick in a 4-3 home win over the Fire before Montreal held the Galaxy — the league’s highest scoring team — off the scoresheet.
“You try to avoid saying that we are sending messages,” Bush said. “It’s more of a message to us, that we can come on the road and get results. It’s a big confidence builder.
“We have another game Wednesday, another important game that I think we are able to go get points there.”
Montreal is 1-0-1 since Biello took over as head coach after Frank Klopas was fired two weeks ago.
The Impact will likely start Dominic Oduro up front at Avaya Stadium and Johan Venegas should fill Piatti’s central attacking midfielder role. In the back, Hassoun Camara could make his return from a knee injury.
Camara hasn’t played for the Impact since April 22. Eric Kronberg, a native of Santa Rosa, Calif., should get the start in goal.
San Jose is in its own playoff race in the Western Conference.
The Earthquakes are currently seventh in the West, two points out of the sixth and final playoff spot. After an 0-5-1 skid, San Jose has won four of its last six.
“Wednesday is a very important game,” Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear said on the team’s website. “We are in the mix for the playoffs. A win on Wednesday puts us in a good spot.”
Notes: Montreal is 2-0-1 all-time versus the Earthquakes in MLS. … San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski has a league-best 99 goals since 2010. He has 13 goals this season. … Piatti leads the Impact with eight goals. … Montreal and San Jose split their two meetings in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2013.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press