Ex-Impact coach Jesse Marsch returns with NY Red Bulls
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MONTREAL - The well-wishing and handshakes between old friends and colleagues will have to wait until after the Montreal Impact face the New York Red Bulls.
The three points up for grabs between the MLS Eastern Conference rivals will be top priority for both clubs when the Impact (8-8-3) and the Red Bulls (9-6-5) meet Wednesday night at Saputo Stadium.
It will mark the return to Montreal of Jesse Marsch, who was the Impact's first MLS head coach in 2012, as well as former Impact players Felipe Martins and Karl Ouimette, a Montreal-area native who will have his own cheering section in the seats.
"We'll see them after the game and wish them luck, but it's our game to win," midfielder Calum Mallace said.
New Impact signing Didier Drogba, still working his way into game shape, will not play but is to be introduced to fans at the game. Coach Frank Klopas said midfielder Johan Venegas, who signed on Monday, may see some action.
Marsch got his first job as a head coach in Montreal, where he built a squad for its expansion season. He became a popular figure, especially for his efforts to learn French, but left after one season, citing philosophical differences with a management team that wanted a heavy European presence on the club.
He was replaced by Marco Schallibaum, who got Montreal to the playoffs but was fired in favour of Klopas at the end of the 2013 campaign.
Marsch played it all down to New York media this week. Only five players, goalie Evan Bush, defender Hassoun Camara and midfielders Mallace, Patrice Bernier and Justin Mapp remain from the 2012 Impact.
"It's a long time ago," said Marsch. "They've moved on.
"I'm excited to see my old friend Frank Klopas, but other than that, I'm just getting ready for another good game on the road."
Marsch and Klopas were teammates on the 1998 Chicago Fire team that won both the MLS title and the U.S. Open Cup. Klopas later coached the Fire.
"I was a lot older than him," said Klopas. "He got into the league when I was retiring, but we had that great moment in '98 when we won the double as an expansion team.
"I know him as a player and as a friend off the field. I faced him when he was in Montreal and I was in Chicago. But I'll try to do what's best for my team and he'll do the best for his team. My focus is with my club here."
The Impact are coming off only their second away win of the season, a 3-2 decision Saturday at New York City. The Impact now play four in a row at home, where they have won six of their last seven.
After the second place Red Bulls, they play host to first place D.C. United on Saturday night. Klopas called it "a great opportunity at home to continue to climb the ladder."
The Red Bulls are also hot, having won two road games in a row including a 3-1 decision Saturday at Philadelphia. Former England and Manchester City striker Shaun Wright-Phillips made his debut in the game, setting up a goal by his younger brother Bradley, who leads the Red Bulls with nine goals.
Impact midfielder Marco Donadel will serve a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
The club traded striker Jack McInerney to Columbus on Tuesday for a 2016 second round draft pick. The move cleared roster space for Drogba and Venegas. Dominic Oduro will likely play as the lone forward until Drogba is ready.