Defender Samuel Piette admits this season has been a heavy one for the Montreal Impact.
Border closures forced the team to relocate to Harrison, N.J., in mid September, leaving players separated from their loved ones for weeks at a time. Injuries have hit the squad hard, and this week, some unexpected departures left the Impact's ranks even thinner.
On top of everything else, Montreal (6-10-2) head into Saturday's matchup with Inter Miami CF (5-10-3) on a two-game losing skid.
“It’s difficult not getting results and, on top of that, there’s other things happening where you’re losing players. It’s obviously difficult," Piette said on a video call Friday. "You feel like the world is against you.”
But the team has unique motivation heading into Saturday's game — they're heading home soon.
After facing Miami, the club has a one-week break, so many players will go back to Montreal for a few days to spend some much-needed time with their families.
“Obviously we want to enjoy those days with a good atmosphere by having a good result," Piette said. "But in general, it’s been hard, I won’t lie.”
Earlier this week, the Impact transferred Saphir Taider to a club in Saudi Arabia, and starting 'keeper Clement Diop went to France for "personal reasons."
The departures and a spate of injuries meant 12 players were unavailable to play in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the New England Revolution.
Injuries may be reducing Montreal's ranks, but they're not unexpected in a condensed season where the team has had so little time for training, said Impact coach Thierry Henry.
“If you don’t have the opportunity to train and then suddenly you play every three days, what do you think’s going to happen?” he said, noting that other teams around Major League Soccer have also lost players to cramps and pulled muscles this season.
“I’m just saying you have to adapt to the situation. Nobody has had to deal with (this) before so we’re trying to adjust to it. And obviously it’s tough.”
Despite the mounting adversity, the Impact remain in the playoff race, holding on to the ninth spot in the MLS Eastern Conference.
Miami sits two places below, which should make for a battle when the two teams meet for the first time on Saturday.
The expansion club comes to the Impact's temporary home in New Jersey on a three-game unbeaten streak.
Scottish midfielder Lewis Morgan has been a key part of Miami's recent success, tallying three goals and two assists over the past four games.
He's just one of the pieces the Impact will need to contain, however. Miami also has a number of other threats, including striker Gonzalo Higuain, who's looking to add to his MLS tally after joining the club last month.
“They are tough to play against," Henry said. "We’re trying to make a run for the playoffs, they’re trying to make a run for the playoffs.”
The standings are tight, he added, and the table could turn quickly if a team strings together multiple wins.
“You never know, if you get on a run in this league, anything can happen. I’ve seen it before," the coach said. "But (Miami's) a tough team to play against."
INTER MIAMI CF (5-10-3) AT MONTREAL IMPACT (6-10-2)
Saturday, Red Bull Arena
LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN: Montreal's Romell Quioto is looking for his seventh goal of the season. The feat would tie a career high for the Honduran forward, who scored seven while playing for the Houston Dynamo in 2017.
PROTECT THE NET: Montreal has conceded 35 goals this season, more than any other team in the Eastern Conference. Miami has allowed 27 goals in 18 games.
BROTHERLY LOVE: Miami's squad features the Higuain brothers, Federico and Gonzalo. The duo are one of four pairs of brothers currently playing in the MLS, and are the 18th in the league's history.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2020.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press