Training camp is over, and the players are back in Montreal. 33 days, 24 hours a day, with almost no days off. That is the reality of training camp in most professional sports. But for a team that experienced a lot of change this offseason, including a new coaching staff, the benefits of having the group together for that long are clear.
“It was very important, for the coaching staff as much as the players,” said Impact midfielder Samuel Piette. “It forged the team and its character, being together 24 hours a day for that long. It’s great, but it will feel good being back home.”
“We know each other really well now,” said Impact head coach Rémi Garde. “I am not sure we will recognize our families but at least we know each other well now. The group was remodeled, a lot of departures and arrivals so it was excellent to spend all this time together. The ambiance after this camp is very positive. I am really impressed by this group’s unity, work rate, and solidarity, which we will need if we want to go far this season.”
A team with character
Spanning through Miami, Las Vegas, and St. Petersburg, training camp came to an end on Saturday with a 2-2 draw against Patrick Vieira’s New York City FC. That draw felt much more like a win for the Bleu-blanc-noir, who went down by two goals after David Villa’s brace, only to come back and earn a hard-fought tie in the second half.
“The fact that we came back and tied the game says a lot about us,” added Piette. “It shows that our team doesn’t get phased if it concedes, we do not put our heads down. The game is long, and we know we have talent and attacking elements that can hurt other teams. We know it is important to never give up.”
“We played against a great team that is very good on the ball,” said Impact midfielder Saphir Taïder. “They might have had more possession, but they were not more dangerous. I think we did well today. We are growing little by little, and we are confident, but of course there is still work to do.”
Confidence is growing
It was an important performance, considering the Impact was coming off a 5-0 loss on Wednesday night at the hands of the Philadelphia Union. Despite the Montrealers starting the game with a very young line-up against most of Philadelphia’s best 11, the loss brought clarity to an Impact squad that had three consecutive wins in preseason at that point.
“I think it was important that we took a beating the way we did, because it showed our weaknesses, and because of the loss, we were able to address that,” said Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush. “In the past, the room might have gotten divided after a loss like that, but because of the way we addressed it right from the start, it brought us together and made us tighter. We are going to have to rely on staying together, because there are a lot of good teams in this league and we are going to have to play 11 guys on the field every time as opposed to individually.”