April 11, 2014, MONTREAL (ISN) – Coach Frank Klopas says beating his former team will mean more to his Montreal Impact players than to himself.
They will get that chance on Saturday when the Chicago Fire visit Olympic Stadium. It will be the Impact debut of striker Jack McInerney, acquired last week from the Philadelphia Union.
The Impact (0-2-3) have yet to win since Klopas took over from the fired Marco Schallibaum this season. The Fire (0-1-4) are also looking for their first victory under Klopas’ replacement, Canadian Frank Yallop.
“Listen, Chicago’s my home,” said Klopas, who played for the Fire and then coached them for 81 games from 2011 to 2013. “It’s where I started my career.
“The Fire gave me an opportunity to get involved in the game and they have a special place in my heart. But now my team is the Montreal Impact. I love the city here. The fans have been great. The first win will be sweet no matter who it’s against.”
Yallop, a former Canadian national team defender and coach, sees the Battle of the Franks the same way.
“Both Franks will be trying to get three points for their team,” he told the Fire website.
Klopas has had his hands full trying to find answers for a team that — including last season’s late-season swoon — is 1-9-3 in MLS play since September.
Last week, the Impact were all over New York at the Big O, but defensive breakdowns saw the Red Bulls scored twice in a three-minute span in the first half of what would be a 2-2 draw.
“You can’t fall too far behind,” said Klopas, whose team is last in the 10-team Eastern Conference. “We’re playing well but now we have to get results.
“If you look at the conference, everything is clogged up. So one or two wins and can make a big difference. It would also help from a mental standpoint with the players.”
The Montreal attack has been persistent even if has produced only five goals in as many games. The club leads MLS with 91 shot attempts and 34 on target. Veteran Marco Di Vaio, who wasted a handful of glittering chances against New York, leads the league with 20 attempts.
It should only be more dangerous with the addition of the 21-year-old McInerney, who had 12 goals last season for the Union. The American known as Jack Mac has had a few training sessions with his new team and may start alongside Di Vaio in a two-striker formation
“The players have had a chance to see how he moves on the field and where he likes the ball,” said Klopas. “From a fitness standpoint, he’s ready. Mentally he’s ready. He has a very strong personality and mentality, so from all that, I think he’s ready to go.”
Di Vaio joked that McInerney was born the year he made his debut in Italy’s Serie-A with Lazio. But he likes what he’s seen so far.
“In training, everything is good,” said 37-year-old Di Vaio. “I’m trying to understand his movements.
“We’re going to see this weekend how it goes. He’s a young guy but at the same time, he’s like an old guy because he thinks a lot. He’s smart and he has very good quality.
“He can do something very important this league. Maybe, if he wants to go to Europe one day to try to play, he has the quality to play in Europe. Everything is in his hands. His attitude this week was good. He wants to learn and improve every day. This is most important for a young guy like him.”
He said most of the week was spent trying to fix the defensive letdowns that have plagued the club going back to last season. Central defender Matteo Ferrari said the team seems to love going on attack but doesn’t like to defend.
The biggest problem has been getting caught with too many players up field when there is a turnover.
Left back Heath Pearce feels some of that can be fixed with better communication with the right back, rookie Eric Miller. Both are encouraged to join the attack, but they can’t both be upfield at the same time.
“We’ve got a better understanding of where we’re vulnerable,” said Pearce. “We’ve outplayed teams this year, but our mistakes seem to be fatal mistakes.
“We’re punished hard for them. Just creating a better balance offensively and defensively — especially with myself and Eric Miller — just knowing that if one guy’s up, the other has to cover. We got forward well at times using the outside backs, but our balance hasn’t been the greatest.”
The Impact are missing midfielder Hernan Bernardello to an ankle injury, so captain Patrice Bernier may start after coming off the bench the last two games. But much depends on how Klopas rearranges the formation if McInerney starts.
Midfielder Felipe Martins left last week’s game with cramps, but said he is ready to go. He said the team wants to win this game for their new coach.
“We know how hard we work every day so we want to get the result for him and for the team and the fans,” he said. “It’s a special game for everybody.”
Chicago striker Mike Magee agreed that it’s special for both coaches.
“They’re both great guys, both great coaches,” said Magee. “There are some bragging rights at stake, but we all love Klopas and wish him nothing but the best — just not this week.”
Notes — The list of MLS salaries released this week had designated player Di Vaio as Montreal’s top earner with a salary of US$1.5 million and a guaranteed $2.6 million. McInerney is at $230,000 and $294.166. . . Former Impact fullback Zarek Valentin, now playing in Norway for Bodo Glimt, is out for the season after surgery on a torn Achilles tendon