In an effort to successfully leap over the Philadelphia Union in eighth place of the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night, Montreal Impact head coach Mauro Biello called upon players that have not had much of an opportunity to play.
Opening the score at the 19th minute by way of a heading effort on goal, Michael Salazar rewrote his name in the pecking order. The Belizean forward started in Biello’s 4-2-3-1 formation over Dominic Oduro and had quietly amassed two goal in two consecutive starts since returning from the Impact USL affiliate, the Ottawa Fury.
“I think that going to Ottawa was good for him. He got minutes over there, he scored over there and he got confidence too,” said Biello of his young player.
“When I went there, it was to find my rhythm. I [hadn’t] played in a while,” said Salazar about his trip to Ottawa. “The coaches wanted me to go there and be dangerous, create plays and I did well.”
With his recent tally and his asset as a aerial scoring threat, Salazar may have raised up in the pecking order competing with the likes of Dominic Oduro.
“I try to not get ahead of myself,” he said. “I try to do things every single day. I try to work on the little things in my game and it’s helping me right now.”
Another young player who got his chance in the Impact’s humid mid-week win was homegrown midfielder Louis Béland-Goyette. After an injury that kept him out of the playing field for four months, the native of Pointe-Claire in western Montreal, learned he would get his first MLS start against the Union the day before the game.
“I was very excited, a little nervous too,” said Béland-Goyette. “But I took it as a challenge. I kept with my principles and kept focused on bringing my style of play to the team.”
The 21 year old, who sports his first name behind his jersey, was signed to a Homegrown contract on Sept. 12 2014 and came off the bench to play 15 minutes against the New England Revolution the very next day.
Since then, he was wiped from the Impact’s MLS roster in 2015 and sent down the the team’s then USL affiliate, FC Montreal where he spent two seasons. After gaining starter experience in the USL, Béland-Goyette resigned a new deal for the 2017 season.
However, a knee injury while off with the Canadian national team once again threw a wrench in his plans.
“I’m a positive guy. I think I was patient too. It was difficult with my injury,” said Béland-Goyette. “It came at a bad time during the season because I thought opportunities could have opened up at that time but I stay positive and work hard every day.”
“I was out of the field for four months but I knew that my chance would come up.”
In a year where the Impact has had good fortune using young players, Biello argued about not overlooking the young central midfielder.
“I know we talk a lot about Ballou and Choinière, all these other kids, but Louis is another kid that has talent,” said Biello. “There’s a lot of good things in his game that you’re going to see and hopefully with experience, he’s only going to get better.”
Wednesday’s youth influx was once again polished by the work of Blerim Dzemaili. In the absence of designated player Ignacio Piatti, the Impact’s other DP has been giving his team crucial points with individual efforts.
The Swiss international once again showed this Wednesday by taking the game-winning goal early in the second half. He beat Giliano Wijnaldum one-on-one at the edge of the 18-yard box before scoring his fourth goal of the season.
“He’s a midfielder that finds pockets, finds spaces, he could score, he could pass. It becomes difficult to defend someone like that,” said Biello. “The fact that he has a great shot, he has already four goals, definitely helps us. It helps our midfield and he scores big goals at the right moment.”
Having played the Euro with Switzerland and the Serie A season with Bologna before crossing the Atlantic to play MLS minute right away, Dzemaili thoroughly enjoyed the two-week Gold Cup break.
“I had a lot of games and I didn’t stop even a day and it was important to spend some days off with my family to not think about football,” said Dzemaili. “It was very good and when I came back, I came back very motivated and I just want to continue like this. I’m very happy here, I just want to help everybody, the young players, the league and want to continue like this.”
The Impact added more youth to their depth chart by signing center-back Deian Boldor on loan from Bologna, with an option to extend. The former Romanian youth international spent the last season on loan to then Serie B’s Hellas Verona, where he played nine games.
“Deian is a young left-footed centre-back who has a strong physical presence and will provide us with a different profile to our other center-backs,” said technical director Adam Braz in a press release. “He showed a strong desire to join our team and is highly motivated to help us reach our objectives.”
With the win, the Impact have a positive start an important stretch of mid-summer games. In their next five encounters, the Impact will face direct Eastern conference playoff race rivals in the New York Red Bulls, Orlando City and, once again, the Union.