No short-term solutions coming for thin Montreal Impact squad: sporting director

In this March 2020 file photo, players listen to Montreal Impact head coach Thierry Henry during a practice in Montreal. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Montreal Impact sporting director Olivier Renard says his club is looking to the future after losing another key piece.

The Impact (6-10-2) parted ways with midfielder Saphir Taider Wednesday, transferring the 28-year-old Algerian to Al Ain FC in Saudi Arabia.

Renard declined to say how much the club received as a transfer fee for Taider, but did say that the money saved on his salary will be put toward the 2021 season.

Montreal has been hit hard by a slew of injuries and untimely departures recently, and it also temporarily lost Clement Diop on Wednesday as the goalkeeper travelled back to France for personal reasons.

Renard says he expects Diop to be back at the team’s temporary home in Harrison, N.J., this weekend, and he will need to quarantine for nine days on his return.

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The sporting director says the club isn’t looking to sign new talent to fill the gaps because the Impact already have 30 players under contract — the maximum allowed in Major League Soccer.

Instead, the team needs to look at why a dozen players were unavailable to play in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the New England Revolution, Renard said.

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“The more important thing is why we have 12 players out,” he said. “It is a question that we need to analyze with the sporting staff and medical staff and work to be better in the next months.”

Impact coach Thierry Henry told reporters earlier this week that he didn’t have enough healthy players to have the kind of tactical training session that he would like.

Injuries have sidelined a number of Montreal’s stars this season, including Orju Okwonkwo (hamstring) and Anthony Jackson-Hamel (knee). Romell Quioto, the club’s top scorer, recently returned after missing four games with an injury.

The Impact are also currently without Lassi Lappalainen and Jukka Raitala, who have both been called up to the Finnish national team.

Montreal dealt veteran goalie Evan Bush to the Vancouver Whitecaps at the end of September, and had to rely on homegrown ‘keeper James Pantemis in Wednesday’s loss. The 23-year-old native of Kirkland, Que., made nine saves in his MLS debut.

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Click to play video: 'West Island’s James Pantemis makes an impact in professional soccer'
West Island’s James Pantemis makes an impact in professional soccer

Renard says the club is confident in moving forward with Pantemis.

Wednesday was the latest loss in a rough run of play for the Impact. The team has posted a 1-5-1 record since relocating to New Jersey mid-September due to COVID-19 border restrictions.

One new face could soon provide some help to the thin lineup.

Renard says Mustafa Kizza is finally en route to joining the team. Montreal signed the 21-year-old Ugandan fullback in July but his arrival has been delayed due to border closures.

Though the season has been difficult, Renard said the club is happy with how the team has evolved under Henry.

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The coach has the freedom he needs to field whichever players he thinks will give the team the best opportunity to win, Renard added.

“All the details about the starting 11, he takes the decision that he wants with his staff, not with me,” he said. “He needs to manage the team like he wants.”

The sporting director noted that the Impact are currently sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and, if that holds, they will achieve their goal of reaching the playoffs this season.

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