The last time Montreal Impact defender Jeb Brovsky went to Guatemala, he brought his new wife.
This time he’s bringing his entire Major League Soccer team.
The Impact will head to Guatemala City for a CONCACAF Champions League game against CD Heredia on Wednesday.
It will be a return to the Central American country for Brovsky, who made a charitable excursion to there with his new bride, Caitlin, in December to work with local orphans.
Thanks to the Brovskys’ volunteer work in conjunction with HANDS, a non-profit organization set up by Guatemalan alumni Brovsky’s alma mater Notre Dame, the Impact will have a small portion of the partisan crowd in their corner Wednesday night.
“They have set up a good itinerary for about 500 kids and volunteers to come to our game,” Brovsky said after the Impact’s practice Monday at Saputo Stadium. “We got them T-shirts, a backpack each with some water and some other goodies in there. Hopefully they’ll have a great time at the game.”
The Impact have stepped into a whole different soccer world two weeks after opening the competition with a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 7.
Matt Jordan, the Impact’s director of soccer operations, was Montreal’s goalkeeper five years ago, the last time the team took part in the tournament.
He says that planning for the Guatemalan excursion began a couple of months ago.
“We’ve put a lot of work into preparing for this trip,” Jordan said Monday as the Impact practised at Saputo Stadium before its flight. “The club has made a huge commitment to have top level travel for the team. We’ve hired a private security company, brought our own chef, we’ve covered all the details from A to Z so the only thing the players have to concentrate on is playing, which is the most important thing.”
Security for a travelling team is not a matter taken lightly on a trip to a soccer-mad country with one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America.
“I think we’ve covered our bases,” Jordan said.
Marco Di Vaio, who scored both goals in Montreal’s 2-1 win over D.C. United in MLS action Saturday night, did not travel with the team. Veteran defender Alessandro Nesta and midfielder Patrice Bernier also stayed behind with the Impact facing a stretch of three games in eight days.
Head coach Marco Schallibaum is suspended for Montreal’s next Major League Soccer game against Houston on Saturday but he will be on the sidelines Wednesday night in Guatemala City.
Schallibaum apologized to his players after he was ejected 75 minutes into the game against Washington, earning an automatic suspension from MLS for the fourth time in his debut season. The veteran Swiss coach admitted that he lost his cool after seeing Justin Mapp knocked out of bounds by D.C. United’s James Riley in a vulnerable spot near T.V. equipment between the benches.
“I have no problem saying I’m sorry,” Schallibaum said. “Nobody’s perfect. I made a mistake Saturday and it was not good. That’s what I explained to my players.”
Impact defender Hassoun Camara said that the price of Schallibaum’s transgression is more than covered by the spirit behind it.
“As players we are happy to have a coach like that because we see that he will be the first to sacrifice and show that he will be the first to fight,” Camara said. “We have to do the same on the field. This is the spirit we must have. He showed he wanted to protect his player and that’s a good thing for us.”
Wednesday night’s game will be played on a synthetic pitch at Estadio Cementos Progresso, the home of Guatemalan club team Communicaciones, which has hosted a number of international teams and competitions. The game was moved there because CD Heredia’s home field it is not up to CONCACAF standards.
Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush will make his second straight Champions League start. Bush also played all four games in the Impact’s run to the Amway Canadian Championship, but he has backed up Troy Perkins and has yet to see any MLS action this season.
“It’s something where we’re going to need to bond together and it’s not going to be a good atmosphere,” Bush said. “I’m sure it’s going to be a hostile atmosphere. You hear a lot of stories about going to those countries and we’re expecting those kinds of things.”
CD Heredia will host the MLS Earthquakes next Wednesday. Montreal travels to San Jose on Sept. 17 and hosts CD Heredia in its fourth and final game of the group stage one week later.