It's for all the marbles -- who will win the Canadian Championship's
Eastern Conference crown semi-final tonight? Toronto is up 2-0 heading to Stade Saputo, so what is going on in the minds of the hosting Montrealers? I go tete-a-tete avec nos ami at Mount Royal Soccer, Sofiane Benzaza with a few questions. For my answers to his questions, cliquez ici.
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John Leung (JL): Down 2-0 heading into the home leg, and with a restless crowd who demands better, what do you think is going on in Marco Schallibaum's mind right now in regards to the Canadian Championship?
Sofiane Benzaza (SB): The restless crowd found a voice and banners through the messages of discontent from the Ultras Montreal during the 2-0 victory of the Montreal Impact over the Chicago Fire. In the post-game conference, Marco Schällibaum expressed his frustration over the performance of his club in the 1st leg:
"I said on Thursday [last week] that the team that presented itself during the second half [of the first leg] at Toronto was not my team. We were not good but I must say [...] that there is a lot of heart in this club "
His mind is more geared toward the actual performances of his players but understands the importance of the competition. Though, that created some sort of mixed messages as the club definitively focused on the MLS games with barely any regular starters in the first leg.
JL: Many of the big names were rested during the first leg last week; are we likely to see some of Montreal's big names on Wednesday? And if so, who?
SB: I sincerely think that the same squad from the first leg will be playing the second leg with some modifications. I expect some consistency as per Saturday's game vs Chicago. Meaning, the coaching staff might continue the newly found 4-4-2 formation while including Academy graduate Wandrille Lefevre, who replaced an injured Alessandro Nesta mid-game.
Without really reading into the mind of the staff, I would see some caution in playing important players such as Hassoun Camara whose value just tripled with Nesta's abductor injury and Matteo Ferrari is still recovering from a left calf injury.
JL: Let's talk a little about Danele Paponi. How's he been anyhow? And how do you see him fitting into the grand scheme on Wednesday, if at all?
SB: Under the previously mentioned 4-4-2, I will not be surprised to see Daniele Paponi start alongside Andrew Wenger. With a very interesting and good performance vs Chicago, the young Italian striker definitively adds value to the team as a player with decent skills, a heavy shot and a physical presence. That presence will liberate Marco Di Vaio...in MLS games at least.
JL: We saw a small taste of what Montreal's Canadian contingent (Patrice Bernier and Maxim Tissot for two) was capable of...what are the reviews, and are we likely to see them again?
SB: I expect to see Tissot start and probably Bernier be on the bench. Even though the Montreal Impact would like to win at home and make it to the final. I will admit that I am stumped. Will Montreal use the momentum of the victory over Chicago and play more starters? My spider sense might say yes but I feel that the drive for the MLS playoffs is more important for the club at this point, especially with a not so deep roster.
JL: Speaking of the angry UM02 supporters at the Chicago game on Saturday, did the league win placate them, or are they still angry about last Wednesday?
SB: The message was heard loud and clear and it was definitively a Canadian Championship related issue. The nectar of victory always tastes the sweetest but the Ultras will not forgive and forget that easily. The memories of 2008 are too fresh and too important for the club and the fans that the ambitions in this edition of the Amway (Canadian Championship) are high.
JL: What do you think will be the projected lineup?
SB: (See chart below)
JL: And how about a score prediction?
SB: I say 2-1 for TFC and that's how the cookie crumbles.