MLS: New designated player Blerim Dzemaili eager to get started with Impact

MLS: New designated player Blerim Dzemaili eager to get started with Impact

Montreal Impact designated player Blerim Dzemaili may not wait long for his first taste of Major League Soccer.

The Swiss international midfielder could play, and possibly even start, when the Columbus Crew visits Saputo Stadium on Saturday — just four days after Dzemaili’s arrival from Italian Serie A club Bologna FC.

“When we talked to him he indicated that he’s in shape and ready to play,” assistant coach Jason Di Tullio said Thursday. “It’s very positive so far.

“He came in Wednesday and the game’s on Saturday so it will be a quick turnaround. We don’t expect everything to be perfect. It will take some time. But we’re excited to have him, for sure.”

German star Bastian Schweinsteiger started against Montreal and scored a goal on April 1 only a few days after he joined the Chicago Fire. The 31-year-old Dzemaili arrived in game shape from playing in the Italian league and will have three days of training with his new teammates before the game.

They Impact are excited to add a gifted veteran who will likely play in an advanced central midfield position, which has been held mainly by captain Patrice Bernier this season. Youngster Ballou Tabla started and scored a goal from that position in a 2-1 road win last week over D.C. United.

“I don’t have to describe his ability, you’ve seen it in the Italian league,” said forward Dominic Oduro. “It’s a matter of finding that connection with the team and he has shown some signs.

“The way he’s able to turn and move forward with the ball will help us. Hopefully he blends with the team really quickly.”

The club has been trying to move from a counter-attacking style to having more control of the ball this season and Dzemaili, a strong defensive player who can also add some offence, should help them make the transition.

Impact president Joey Saputo announced in December that Dzemaili would join the club this season. He wasn’t expected until the summer, but when Bologna got enough points to ensure they won’t be relegated, they opted to speed up the process and send him to Montreal before the May window for player transfers closed.

Saputo said the change had nothing to do with the Impact’s slow start to the season. The 2-3-4 club is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re not pushing the panic button,” said Saputo. “It was a matter of opportunity.

“If we were in first place we would have taken the same road.”

It was easy enough to arrange. Saputo is also president of Bologna, although fans of the Rossoblu (Red and Blue) were not happy to lose their club co-leader in goals and player of the month for November and January.

Saputo said Bologna, a team that relies on player development because it doesn’t have the means to chase expensive stars, wants to go with younger players. Agreement was reached with Dzemaili to spend one season with the Italian club and then join the Impact. Officially he is on loan to Montreal to the end of 2017, but there is an agreement on a long-term contract extension.

The Impact’s first designated player, after joining MLS in 2012 was striker Marco di Vaio, who came from Bologna and later went back there to take a management job.

“He said it’s a whole new experience for me, another football, but that’s exactly what I wanted after a long career in Europe,” said Dzemaili.”He was very excited about Montreal.

“He felt he had two very good years here. I’ve only been here two days and I already feel very comfortable.”

Last season, veteran forward Matteo Mancosu joined the Impact from Bologna.

What remains to be seen about Dzemaili is how coach Mauro Biello will use him and how his body holds up playing without a break between the European and MLS seasons. He also may get called away for international duty with Switzerland, for which he has six goals in 55 matches.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press
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