Tuesday’s friendly with Lyon provides Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch with an opportunity to give minutes to key players returning from injury and seeking match fitness.
MONTREAL – Some say these games are just a hassle, but as a player, Jesse Marsch always looked forward to playing the big European clubs when they came to North America for preseason. AC Milan was Marsch’s team growing up and it was particularly rewarding to play the Italian side in July of 2005, which had Alessandro Nesta - one of the Montreal Impact’s recent signings - playing on the other end.
“I played Alessandro [Nesta] when I was with the [Chicago] Fire,” Marsch recounted to the media following Monday's training session. “It was 1-1 until the 85th minute and then we gave up two at the end. As a player, these are games that you cherish. For me, AC Milan was like my team when I was a kid. Playing against guys like [Clarence] Seedorf, Rui Costa, [Paolo] Maldini, Alessandro [Nesta] is always a good test and an exciting time for players, and I think the fans will really enjoy it too.”
The Impact’s friendly with Olympique Lyonnais on Tuesday comes at an opportune time for Marsch, for as well as getting a good challenge from the French Cup winners, he will also be able to give several key players returning from injury some important minutes.
"They [Lyon] are a very, very good team, and you will find out right away that if you are not disciplined, they will make you pay," said Marsch. "The timing of the game is good for us as we can get minutes for some players that have been injured like Matteo [Ferrari] and Nelson [Rivas], as well as Alessandro [Nesta]."
After playing 60 minutes against the Impact’s Under-21 side last week, Nesta said that he’s hoping to play for a half against Lyon on Tuesday and that he’s also keen on meeting up with his former teammate Yoann Gourcuff.
"I look forward to making my debut tomorrow," said Nesta. "I hope to play at least 45 minutes and do well. I know Yoann Gourcuff from his time in [AC] Milan, and I'm looking forward to playing against him. He's a good guy and a great player."
After suffering a right hamstring injury, Andrew Wenger will also make his return on Tuesday and Marsch explained that he would be reverting back to a 4-4-2 formation for the friendly, with Wenger and Marco Di Vaio leading the attack in the first half.
“Both halves we’re going to play two up front, and we’ll be taking a look at that again,” said Marsch. “First half we’re going to play Marco [Di Vaio] and Andrew [Wenger] together and see what they look like. I think we’re all excited to see that pairing working together”.
The Impact are hoping that Nesta and Rivas will be fit enough to start in the Impact's all-important league game on Saturday, when Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls are in town.