By moving Saturday’s game with the Fire to Sept. 23, Major League Soccer helped the Montreal Impact. Instead of playing an early-season game four days before the biggest night in the club’s history, Montreal will have more time to rest and get ready for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final on Wednesday at famed Estadio Azteca in Mexico against Club America.
As for the Fire, it only created a packed schedule in September while keeping them off the field for 20 days. It’s something the Fire don’t seem to like but have to handle.
“Not ideal, but like I always say we’ve just got to get on with it and be prepared for that next game once it comes,” Fire coach Frank Yallop said during a teleconference Monday.
When the schedule was first released, this was going to be a busy week for the Fire (2-3-0, six points). Coming off a bye, they were going to play Wednesday at the New England Revolution before traveling to face the Impact on Saturday. But on March 26, the New England game was shifted to Saturday, June 13, a move the Fire intended to fill a hole in their June schedule while also giving them more time to prepare for the Impact.
That time won’t be needed after the game was moved by MLS to help Montreal try to complete its run to a continental championship. On Monday, Yallop was asked whether the Fire had any choice and said “the game was moved.” And if the Fire had been given a choice?
“Once it’s moved, it’s moved,” Yallop said.
“Would we have preferred to have played? Absolutely,” Yallop added. “But I understand the reason why, and I have to accept it.”
Thanks to the league’s decision, the Fire won’t have a chance to build on their momentum from consecutive victories until April 24 against New York City FC. Instead, they will have games on Sept. 19 against Orlando City at Toyota Park, the makeup on the 23rd at Montreal, then the 26th at Toronto FC. Granted, Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko should be available then, but that will be near the end of a long season that by then could have presented other unforeseen challenges and obstacles.
To pass the time now and stay somewhat sharp, the Fire have already played one intrasquad scrimmage and are expected to hold another Saturday.
But those scrimmages in empty stadiums against teammates aren’t the same as actual games. Yallop knows that and tacitly acknowledged it Monday when he said “in hindsight, we’d love to play the New England game now, knowing that the other one’s been moved.”