Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Montreal Impact Enter the Season Confident but No Longer under the MLS Radar

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Montreal Impact Enter the Season Confident but No Longer under the MLS Radar

Article excerpt

Impact confident but no longer under MLS radar

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CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Impact flew under the radar in 2015, with Didier Drogba leading from the front as Montreal surprised one team after another in a late-season surge.

Not this year.

"Absolutely not. We have a big target on our back," said goalkeeper Evan Bush. "Obviously we have one of the marquee players in the league now. So every time we play anybody they're going to be focused on shutting us down as a team and shutting down Didier as an individual.

"We're going to need to be even more unified and go into the games with the right mentality."

Captain Patrice Bernier agrees.

"We have to up our game, because now teams know Didier, teams know Laurent (Ciman)," he said. "Nacho (Ignacio Piatti) has been in the league two years.

"Those players are already well-known. So it's for us to be well-oiled."

After an inspired run in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Impact stumbled to 8-11-4 in the league last season when Frank Klopas was fired as coach Aug. 30. Under Mauro Biello, Montreal finished 7-2-2 to place third in the East before its playoff run ended in Columbus in the conference semifinals.

"I think we left a little bit on the table at the end of the year," said Bush. "Clearly we were very hot going into the playoffs and were playing very well. So we had high expectations and ambitions during that time. But at the end of the day we didn't finish the way we wanted to finish.

"So going into this season we had a lot of confidence from the run we made in the last three months of the season) there. But we also have a lot of hunger going into this season."

Drogba is expected to see his first minutes of the pre-season Saturday when the Impact visit the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL in the Suncoast Invitational.

For Bush, Drogba brings with him the kind the confidence that Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta did. As for the leadership of the 37-year-old from the Ivory Coast, Bush says "it's something that I don't even know he knows that he's doing.

"But he's got a unique ability to bring a room together. And he does that in his everyday life, let alone in our locker-room. You see all the things that he does with his foundations and charities and things like that. …

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