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Butler: Imapct look to Stade Saputo to get needed first win

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Noel Butler, TSN.ca
4/25/2014 4:50:03 PM
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It was broad smiles all around from head coach Frank Klopas and Sporting Director Nick de Santis as the Impact put on their brave and cheery faces at training yesterday.

Hard to imagine this is a club who are firmly entrenched at the bottom of the Eastern Conference as results this season mirror the tailspin the Impact suffered throughout the later stages of the 2013 season.

Last Saturday's Kansas City shambles offered very few shreds of comfort or optimism for a club who have only claimed a solitary victory over the course of their last 15 regular season matches.

Coincidentally, that win - secured in the final home match of the 2013 season - came against the Philadelphia Union who will be the opponent for the Impact's Saputo Stadium home opener Saturday afternoon.

Going into this season there was no expectation the Impact would start in the same forthright manner they did in 2013, where they had already accumulated 16 points and by a distance were the form team of the Eastern Conference through seven games.

By the same token nobody in the organization would have thought the club would still be in search of its first win on the back of the worst start of the season in club history. By a quirk of fate Klopas' old flame, the Chicago Fire, are the only other winless team in the conference.

Any thought Klopas would suffer a similar fate of so many Impact coaches before were completely dismissed out of hand by De Santis yesterday, as he offered full and unequivocal support for his besieged head coach.

De Santis could not have appeared more genuine as he addressed the media first in French and then reinforced the same message when switching to English as he expressed complete confidence in his coaching staff.

“It's frustrating, it's disappointing but we do need to stay patient,” De Santis said of the Imapct's start.

The opening goal conceded against the reigning MLS Cup champions was a Callum Mallace attempt at a headed clearance that found nothing but the roof of the Impact net.

It typifies the run of ill fortune the Impact has experienced so far this season. One that by this stage drains, and erodes confidence levels allowing for the doubts to set in. This was evident during the second half in Kansas where as a team they completely lacked conviction and confidence.

After Marco Di Vaio was forced off injured in minute 55, many players became mere shadows of themselves as they conceded three soft goals. After the match Impact captain Patrice Bernier could offer little explanation of why the team had performed so poorly though the second half.

If the Impact is to salvage their season this has to represent rock bottom. Playing at Saputo Stadium for a first time this season offers up the perfect tonic.

Training yesterday took place at the club's training pitch adjacent to the stadium and was conducted under glorious blue skies, which is in stark contrast to training and playing at a dreary appearing Olympic Stadium. A spring was in everyone's steps, a certain buoyancy in the air.

Di Vaio - who will be the first to admit that his form this season is far from where he would like it to be, or where the club needs it to be - seems likely to overcome the slight hamstring strain and should be available Saturday.

Someone who likely again won't feature is Argentine DP Hernan Bernardello. Yesterday De Santis spoke of the midfielder's fellow countryman Igniacio Piatti, who currently plays for San Lorenzo. The Impact's Sporting Director admitted the club was very much hoping to bring him in during the upcoming transfer window.

Don't expect summer shopping to be limited to merely adding a third and final DP. This is a club who throughout its 20-plus-year history doesn't shy away from making the investments where needed.

Bolstering the lineup and adding greater depth will certainly enhance the Impact's chances in the second half of the season. For now, though, it's about getting the optimum performances from all the players at their disposal. This is something Klopas admitted earlier in the week was keeping him awake at night.

In the lead up to Saturday's game much has been made in both Montreal and Philadelphia about Andrew Wenger's return to Saputo Stadium.

Wenger even got in on the act himself in the week when he spoke of his time in Montreal and learning much from Marco. Referring to Di Vaio, this was clearly a backhanded slap in the direction of Marco Schallibaum.

As the team were putting in some of their final preparations for Saturday afternoon's encounter, the finishing touches were been applied to Saputo Stadium. The pitch looks in perfect shape.

The last time the club took to that pitch was last Oct. 19 in what was a must-win game for the Impact - who had gone into the game on the back of a six-game winless skid. Philly took the early lead before Di Vaio notched his 20th goal of the season and Karl Ouimette scored the late winner.

The opponent will be the same Saturday afternoon, and the club fully need a similar result. Or as De Santis put it yesterday: “We are a win away from relieving the pressure on everyone.”

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:

Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca

@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Listen to Montreal Impact vs. Philadelphia Union live on TSN690 Montreal [TSN690.ca] Saturday at 4pm et. Rick Moffat [@RickMoffat] and Grant Needham [@GrantNeedham] have the call.

Montreal Impact Fans (Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images)
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