It’s time to see how the Montreal Impact respond to this week’s front office shakeup.
The last-place Impact (3-12-5) face rival Toronto FC at Saputo Stadium on Saturday evening in its first game since owner and president Joey Saputo removed his friend Nick De Santis as sporting director and gave head coach Frank Klopas full control of the squad.
Toronto (7-7-5) is looking to snap out of a mid-season funk that has seen it go 0-2-2 in its last four games and 2-3-4 in its last nine as it struggles to hold onto a playoff spot in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.
Injured Jermain Defoe sits for Toronto
Star striker Jermain Defoe sat out Toronto FC's game with the Montreal Impact on Saturday due to injury.
Defoe was to undergo a scan Sunday for a possible sports hernia.
The 31-year-old England forward had scored 11 of Toronto's 27 goals going into Saturday's game.
A team spokesman said the club wasn't sure when the problem first showed up, but it could have happened last Wednesday in a game against D.C. United.
Defoe arrived in January in a transfer from England's Tottenham. He is one of Major League Soccer's marquee players with a salary of $6.18 million US this season.
Defoe was due to play in the Major League Soccer All-Star Game Wednesday against Bayern Munich in Portland.
— The Canadian Press
“When you don’t have good seasons, you have to expect a lot of things,” Impact captain Patrice Bernier said this week. “We have 14 games left to save pride for ourselves, the team and the fans.
“We need to show that (while) we’re having a bad season, we’re a quality team with quality players.”
Montreal, which has lost five in row, is less concerned with the playoffs now as it is about turning around a disastrous campaign.
The game was originally scheduled for Sunday, but was moved up a day to allow Montreal a breather ahead of its CONCACAF Champions League match Tuesday night against FAS of El Salvador.
The scheduling change makes it TFC’s third game in an eight-day span, including last week’s 2-1 loss at home to Kansas City and a 3-0 road setback to D.C. United on Wednesday.
Beset by fans and media as the losses piled up this season, Saputo acted on Wednesday, giving Klopas full power over personnel decisions through the end of the 2015 season.
It will be up to the former Chicago Fire boss to shape the team and get positive results over the last three months of the regular season games and in the Champions League.
“It’s about taking one game at a time now; it’s difficult to talk about the goals we had early on because you have to reassess,” Klopas said. “This game obviously means a lot.
“It’s a big rivalry. It’s a derby. But we’re excited. We’re at home. There’s a certain incentive.”
Klopas was surprised to see De Santis moved to an administrative job. The former Impact player, coach and manager was a big supporter when former U.S. international forward Klopas was named Montreal’s third coach is as many seasons last winter.
Klopas had already made a few moves this season, including one in May that sent midfielder Collen Warner to Toronto for midfielder Issey Nakajima-Farran. It remains to be seen if Warner will start in his return to Saputo Stadium.