Montreal Impact’s Lovitz ready to take over left back job from injured Oyongo

Montreal Impact’s Lovitz ready to take over left back job from injured Oyongo

MONTREAL — Daniel Lovitz attended the Montreal Impact’s training camp in February on a try-out, just looking for a job.

Now he’s the starting left back.

Lovitz inherited the position when the flashy Ambroise Oyongo blew out his right knee on Saturday while on international duty for Cameroon. Oyongo had surgery this week to repair a ruptured patellar tendon and will be out for six months.

On the same day, Lovitz was filling in for Oyongo in the Impact’s 1-1 draw in Kansas City. Without another left back on the roster, the feisty Lovitz, a former Toronto FC midfielder/defender, will get his chance.

“I’m ready for it and it’s something I’ve looked forward to for a very long time, so I’m not going to flinch,” he said Wednesday. “I’m just going to go ahead with it.”

He is to start a second game in a row when the Impact visit Orlando on Saturday.

Assistant coach Jason Di Tullio is confident the 25-year-old can handle the job.

“When you talk about a player like Ambroise, it’s tough, but when you look at our team and you see how hard Daniel Lovitz works every day, it puts us more at ease as a staff and as a team,” said Di Tullio. “For sure, we can’t replace Ambroise, but Lovitz brings something different to the group and we’re comfortable with him going forward.”

The injury cost the Impact one of the best left backs in Major League Soccer, but while Lovitz may not have the same speed or attacking flair as Oyongo, he will bring combativeness, experience and a strong left foot to the position.

He also adds a dose of nastiness to the back line, much as Kyle Fisher has done in the central defence.

“I think I’ve waited a long time for any chance I get to be on the field,” Lovitz said. “For 15 minutes or whatever it would be, I put as much as I could into it.

“It’s nice to not have the pressure of not knowing when you’ll play next. I hope that (toughness) doesn’t leave my game, although I don’t anticipate it will. It’s something I take pride in. It helps us win games.”

When Montreal lost Donny Toia in the expansion draft last winter they were left without an experienced backup to Oyongo.

Lovitz had been let go after three seasons with TFC, where he made 41 appearances, including 13 starts.

The Wyndmoor, Penn. native first went to Vancouver’s camp, where he went on a pre-season trip to Wales with the Whitecaps. But then he was cut, so he joined Montreal’s camp on a 10-day trial and did enough to earn a one-year contract with an option for two more seasons.

He was used mainly as a left midfielder in Toronto, but played some fullback and wingback late in the season. Montreal sees him first as a fullback, although he has also seen some minutes in the midfield in his eight appearances this season.

“It’s something I’m comfortable with,” he said of the fullback job. “I never played a ton of it.

“Having different responsibilities is obvious, but since I’ve been here it’s been a consistent spot for me so it’s been easier for me to put my mark down and get used to it. One of the main adjustments was just in the defensive instincts and the defensive side of it. But it came fairly easily to me. I enjoy it.”

The Impact are likely in the market for another left back. They could promote a prospect from within their organization or bring in experienced help from the outside. Until then, Lovitz will do all he can to cement his claim on the position.

In Orlando, they will also be without right back Chris Duvall, who will serve a one-game suspension after drawing a red card late in the game in Kansas City. Veteran Hassoun Camara is to take his spot.

Midfielder Ballou Tabla, who was injured in the pre-game warm-ups, may be ready to return, although the Impact may not want to take chances with him as they have a busy schedule over the next few weeks.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press


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