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Impact riding high after strong June, look forward to home-game stretch

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Things are starting to look up for the Montreal Impact.

Having swept a two-game series against a dwindling Orlando City team, the Impact faced their toughest test yet: Sporting Kansas City. The visitors had not lost in the month of June, were leaders of the Western Conference and, most importantly, had never lost at Stade Saputo.

Despite all of that, the Impact forced a 2-0 clean sheet down Sporting KC’s necks. Tied with the Philadelphia Union at 21 points, the Impact are just two points away from the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. On a humid Saturday night in Montreal, hope has resurfaced.

“Now we can’t say that we beat a team that was going adrift,” said Impact head coach Remi Garde. “It’s a really good point but we need to double down on this win with another one next Saturday.”

The Impact have recently elevated their level in a significant way. After having gone through a record-low 426 minutes without recording a goal in May, the Impact have now gone 342 minutes without conceding one. For Rudy Camacho, confidence is what changed the team.

“It’s true that a month ago we weren’t in the same place,” said Camacho. “There was a clear lack of confidence and little by little, day by day, we worked on it and it wasn’t easy. We managed to find a good, solid, squad and today we are working for each other.”

Garde also confirmed that the club and center back Rod Fanni had agreed on a contract extension until the end of the season. The former French international had started the game on the last day of his contract. No details regarding the deal were given however the Impact will want to pride themselves for keeping a big part of the team defensive success.

Heading into the rest of the regular season, the Impact may have an upper hand in the East. Of their remaining 16 games, nine of them will be played at Stade Saputo. For Garde, that’s something that could not have come sooner.

“It’s very difficult to win games away, I don’t know why exactly,” Garde said. “But the fact that we started the season with seven games on the road and only three home games made the beginning very difficult for us.”

The Frenchman mentioned that his team struggled because he and his staff, along with a bulk of his players, hadn’t experienced MLS before.

“We had to adapt quickly to settle in. It was tough, we went through tough times but I think that the group gave the right answers,” said Garde. “But in football everything is fragile and if you release the level of your commitment a little bit, we will be punished.”

The Impact hit only one bump in the road to their 2-0 win, namely when Samuel Piette went down with a hip injury. The amount of time the Canadian international will remain out of the Impact’s midfield is still unknown but it is a big loss regardless.

In his absence, Garde called on rookie Ken Krolicki to fill at Piette’s position in front of both center backs. With 52 minutes in the bank in his new role, Krolicki received praise from head coach.

“That put us in an unknown position because Samuel is irreplaceable since the beginning of the season,” Garde said. “Despite that, the reorganization went well, Ken is an intelligent player that quickly understands things and that loves helping the team out. I feel like I’m talking about the same player.”

Krolicki says that going forward, Garde wants him to drop back and be cautious defensively in Piette’s absence. Despite not being used to fit in that role, the 22 year-old who played PDL soccer no less than a year ago is ready to step up.

“It’s hard to replace a guy like that, he’s an important player for us, but if the coach needs me there I’m more than comfortable to [play at his position],” Krolicki said.

“He did well, he grew into the game and he took the decisions,” added Evan Bush. “He’s going to be important going forward.”

The Impact will look to double down on their new identity and extend their clean sheet streak on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.

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