Oyongo injury, Larin arrest give both sides a challenge as Impact visit Orlando

Oyongo injury, Larin arrest give both sides a challenge as Impact visit Orlando

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact and Orlando City will both be looking to overcome setbacks when they meet on Saturday.

The Impact were dealt a blow last weekend when left back Ambroise Oyongo suffered a season-ending right knee injury while playing an African Cup match for Cameroon, while Orlando was stunned by the arrest on Thursday night of Canadian star striker Cyle Larin for drinking and driving.

Larin, tied for third in Major League Soccer with eight goals, is being assessed by doctors from the league’s substance abuse and behavioural health program, which based on past cases suggests he will miss a few games. The Brampton, Ont., striker, who played for Canada in Montreal against Curacao on Tuesday, released a statement of apology on Friday.

That takes away a key scoring threat, although fourth-place Orlando (7-5-3) has Brazilian star Kaka rounding into form after hamstring woes.

Oyongo’s injury leaves the ninth-place Impact (4-4-5) without either starting fullback, as right back Chris Duvall will serve a one-game suspension for a red card infraction late in a 1-1 draw last week in Kansas City. Daniel Lovitz replaces Oyongo while veteran Hassoun Camara should take Duvall’s spot.

The Impact are expected to play five men back as they did in Kansas City, with a three-man defence and two wing backs.

“It’s the same challenge we’ve faced all year,” said goalkeeper Evan Bush. “We’ve played a lot of games without the regular guys.

“Dan played well last game. Hassoun’s a guy that has played a ton of games for us over the years. So you don’t lose much from that standpoint.”

The Impact were missing six players, including four regular starters, to international duty but managed to snag a draw when a terrible mistake by the Kansas City defence allowed forward Matteo Mancosu to chip in a late equalizer.

Some called it a lucky break. Not Bush.

“No one expected us to get anything out of the game and I think it’s disrespectful for people to think that,” said Bush. “We had a solid group on the field.

“We were without a number of our top guys, but we had guys who have played a lot of games in this league. We knew all along that if we focused on the game and approached it the right way we’d get something out of it.”

Midfielder Andres Romero, who had not played since October, 2015, and Mancosu both returned from injuries in Kansas City and got minutes as second-half substitutes. Defence general Laurent Ciman is back from playing for Belgium, midfielder Blerim Dzemaili returns from Switzerland and striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel, midfielder Patrice Bernier and backup goalie Max Crepeau are back from the Canadian team.

Jackson-Hamel subbed in for Larin in the second half and scored the winning goal against Curacao. Orlando midfielder Will Johnson was another of Canada’s key players.

It could be a first look at how Dzemaili and Mancosu, both Italian league veterans, combine in an MLS game. Romero, who usually plays on the right flank, returned at the right time because Ballou Tabla is out with an ankle injury.

Orlando, which will play a fourth straight home game, caught a break when MLS rescinded a red card shown to right back Rafael Ramos in a 1-1 with Chicago in their last league game on June 4. However, a second red card to midfielder Antonio Nocerino went unchallenged and he will sit out one game.

Ted Unkel, the referee for the match, took a barrage of abuse for the botched call on Ramos and Orlando issued a statement condemning a social media post, retweeted by a supporters club, that included the official’s telephone number. Then Unkel did a fine job working the Canada-Curacao game.

Orlando, which started the season 6-1-0 and then went into a slide, is coming off a 3-1 loss at home in U.S. Open Cup play Wednesday to Miami FC, who are coached by former Impact and AC Milan great Alessandro Nesta.

The Impact are on the rebound from a 1-2-4 start and are 2-0-1 in their last three league outings.

Montreal announced Friday it has released Argentine midfielder Adrian Arregui.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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