Some heated exchanges between players at training this week could be exactly what the Montreal Impact need to turn their season around.
Tempers flared during an intense practice session Tuesday as the exasperated Impact – mired in a four-game losing skid – prepared to host the Houston Dynamo at Saputo Stadium on Saturday.
At the heart of the altercation were Ignacio Piatti, Raheem Edwards and Chris Duvall. The players snapped at each other and raised their voices as frustration with poor results seeped out.
“There was an incident (this week) in training and it seems negative but really it’s positive,” defender Daniel Lovitz said Thursday. “The moment you have players start taking ownership of what’s going on, trying to figure out a new way to move forward, that’s productive. The energy is going in a good direction. It’s never what you want to be doing, to have a conflict with somebody on the team, but it’s like a family, you have to do it.
“As a whole team, we understand now that we are holding ourselves accountable and I think that’s a huge step.”
Tied for last in the Eastern Conference, Montreal (3-10-0) has not scored a goal during its four-game slide.
Coach Remi Garde’s side has dropped eight of nine matches since starting the season with a 2-2-0 record. Montreal has been outscored 24-9 over that stretch.
Like Lovitz, Garde is hopeful the mid-week dispute between teammates will help spark Montreal’s offence.
“As long as those things don’t get out of hand, I’m satisfied when things are said between the players, as long as it’s respectful,” he said. “It’s very important. And I hope what happened can help us in the end.
“We are just going through a difficult period, but nobody has given up yet.”
Late goals and second-half collapses have plagued the Impact this season. A staggering 22 of 29 goals conceded this year have come after halftime. The Canadian club is 3-7-0 when leading or tied at the half.
Garde publicly criticized his players after their latest loss, a 2-0 defeat in Minnesota last week. But designated player Saphir Taider, who came to Montreal in the off-season from Bologna, said it’s a question of focus and mental toughness – not lack of talent – that’s plaguing the Impact.
“We’re obviously disappointed with ourselves with those four losses,” said Taider, who leads the team with 33 shots. “It’s a mentality thing. I don’t doubt everyone is giving it their all, but mentally, we can all do better. We can be more concentrated on the pitch to prevent a goal or to win a key challenge.”
That focus will be crucial Saturday against a speedy Houston Dynamo (5-4-3) side that leads MLS with 27 goals (tied with Atlanta United).
Houston’s most dangerous forward, Alberth Elis, has eight goals and five assists through 12 games this season. The 22-year-old from Honduras, who plays on the right flank, has scored in three straight games.
Dynamo striker Mauro Manotas has five goals this season and teammate Romell Quioto has scored three times.
The Impact backline will likely see Rudy Camacho return from a hip injury. The 27-year-old defender has not played since a 4-1 loss in Atlanta on Apr. 28.
Injured defender Kyle Fisher (tibia) is not yet ready to return.
Notes: Houston is coming off a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. … This is the only meeting between Houston and Montreal this season. … The Impact’s 29 goals conceded are a league worst. … The Dynamo are 4-1-1 against Eastern Conference opponents this year.