Goals have been scarce, but it's not from want of trying for the Montreal Impact.
The Major League Soccer expansion team ranks second to Kansas City in the 19-team league in shots (48) and shots on goal (19) after three games, although they have only captain Davy Arnaud's tally in a 1-1 draw in their home opener two weeks ago to show for it.
The Impact (0-2-1) will be looking for their first away goal and their first MLS victory when they visit the New York Red Bulls and MLS player of the week Thierry Henry in Harrison, N.J., on Saturday afternoon.
Coach Jesse Marsch believes his squad is getting closer to finding the right chemistry to turn their good chances into points on the scoreboard.
”Even in training we've put more good attacking plays together,” Marsch said Friday. ”Some of that composure around the goal is slowly starting to come together.
”We're all waiting now for it to click, to lead our chances into goals. But there's not a sense of panic in the group.”
While Marsch did not confirm his starting 11, based on what was seen in training, there should be some changes to help boost the attack.
Italian veteran Bernardo Corradi, who celebrated his 36th birthday, replaced the luckless Justin Braun in the main group.
And Zarek Valentin, recently returned from the U.S. under-23 team that was eliminated early at the Olympic trials, was at right back in place of the suspended Jeb Brovsky.
Former Serie A striker Corradi joined the Impact late in training camp and has played a little more each match as he worked his way back into shape. Now he should get a chance to play a full 90 minutes.
He brings experience, a physical presence and a nasty shot to the position. Marsch said he can also open up space for players like forward Sanna Nyassi, who plays on the right side, or midfielder Arnaud.
”Bernardo has a good understanding of how to be a target forward,” said Marsch. ”Whether he's winning head balls or catching balls with his feet.”
Corradi said he is fit for a full 90 minutes if needed.
”I'm excited because it will maybe be my first match in the starting 11,” he said. ”I hope to do a good job.”
The 20-year-old Valentin is also a more offensive player than Brovsky and may be more of threat to take the ball deeper into opposing territory.
”I've been a midfielder my whole life so I'm attack-minded,” the Lancaster, Pa., native said.
It was thought that six-foot-one Calum Mallace, a rookie taken in the SuperDraft, would move into Brovsky's spot, but Valentin's early return from national team duty looks to have changed that plan. The second-year MLS player should see his first regular-season action with Montreal.
The Impact are coming off a frustrating 2-0 loss last week in Columbus, when a harsh call saw Brovsky sent off in the 19th minute after colliding with the Crew's Milovan Mirosevic as the two went up for a header. Less than 20 minutes later, the home side was awarded a penalty shot.
Now they face a tougher road test against New York, one of the league's glamour teams with international stars like Henry and Rafa Marquez.
The Red Bulls (1-2-0) are coming off a 4-1 home victory over the Colorado Rapids.
”We all know they have great individual players, from Henry to Kenny Cooper and Joel Lindpere, that can kill you,” said Valentin. ”But we need to be focused on ourselves because we know that if we do what we can do we're a tough team to play against.”
Henry and Cooper, who was acquired in the off-season from Portland, have combined for all five New York goals this season.
And Cooper's play takes some of the sting out of Friday's decision to terminate the contract of striker Luke Rodgers after his visa request was denied by U.S. Immigration. Rodgers scored nine goals in 23 games for New York last season.
The Impact starting 11 should have Donovan Ricketts in goal, with Josh Gardner, Tyson Wahl, Matteo Ferrari and Valentin on defence. The midfield is unchanged with Justin Mapp, Felipe, Patrice Bernier and Arnaud, with Corradi and Nyassi up front.
The team donned wool hats and windbreakers for practice in a stiff, cold breeze on artificial turf at a municipal park on Friday. It should be somewhat milder but rainy for the game, which will be played on a grass pitch. There is also a reserve team match with the Red Bulls set for Sunday.
It is a busy week for Montreal, with a third straight road game Wednesday in Salt Lake City followed by their second home game at Olympic Stadium next weekend against Toronto FC.