MONTREAL â€” So far, Montreal Impact coach Mauro Biello hasn’t had to choose between incumbent Hassoun Camara and newcomer Chris Duvall when filling in the right fullback position on his lineup sheet.
It may come to that sometime soon, but it was Duvall who started in the team’s regular season opening 1-0 loss in San Jose last week. The former New York Red Bull should be back in that spot for the home opener against the defending Major League Soccer champion Seattle Sounders on Saturday night at Olympic Stadium.
In San Jose, the lanky Camara moved into the middle because Victor Cabrera (hip) and backup Wandrille Lefevre (concussion) were injured. While the two centrebacks have returned, Camara will sit out the match with an automatic one-game suspension after being sent off when shown the yellow card twice in San Jose.
Biello has said that having Duvall gives him the option to move Camara around if needed, but the 31-year-old has made himself a home on the right side in recent seasons. He was the Impact’s defensive player of the year from that position last year, but Duvall is pushing for full-time duty too.
“To say that I was surprised (to start the season opener) would be a little wrong,” Duvall said this week. “As a player, if you’re taken by surprise when you touch the field you’ve got the wrong mindset.
“I was excited for my opportunity and I was glad I was called on, but unfortunately we didn’t get the result we were looking for.”
Duvall was a starter on a strong New York side that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season, only to be upset by Montreal in the conference semifinals.
The 25-year-old Duluth, Ga., native would likely still be there, but he was selected by Minnesota in the expansion draft on Dec. 13 and then flipped to the Impact for Johan Venegas, a talented midfielder who never found his game in Montreal. The move added youth and depth to a Montreal back line that features star centreback Laurent Ciman and gifted left back Ambroise Oyongo.
Duvall, in his fourth MLS campaign, looks to be settling in well on his new team. One of his duties is working up the right flank with speedy forward Dominic Oduro.
“So far it’s been good,” said Oduro. “I have good chemistry with Hassoun, but in pre-season we talked a lot.
“He was my roommate on the road so that kind of helps too. I’m trying to bring him to speed on our system of play and my position. So far he’s been good at it. It’s a matter of work. He’s experienced enough with the time he’s played in MLS so hopefully he’ll adjust quickly.
“He’s a very good player. He has that endurance to go up and down (the field). As a winger that helps me a lot because I don’t have to come back all the way. I just have to stay up and be a threat.”
Duvall and backup goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau missed practice on Tuesday with the flu but were back the next day. Cabrera has also returned from his injury and should be ready to play.
A crowd of about 35,000 is expected for the home opener. That’s well below the 61,000 that filled the Big O for the Impact’s playoff game against Toronto FC in November, but tops the 27,000 that attended last year’s home opening match in the same venue.
And the Impact have spent the week pitching the new season. They had an open practice for fans set for Thursday night and the players, coaches and management personnel spent Wednesday evening at a gala fund-raiser for their charitable foundation.
“Not every team does this, so I’m fortunate enough to be part of a team that does,” Oduro, who is on his seventh MLS team, said at the fundraiser. “It’s really good for the community.”
The Impact also learned the dates for their Voyageurs Cup (Amway Canadian Championship) series. They will play at Vancouver May 23, with the Whitecaps visiting Saputo Stadium for the return leg on May 30.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press