Mid­fielder Romero aims for Im­pact’s opener af­ter miss­ing 2016 with knee in­jury

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - MLS SOC­CER

Hav­ing An­dres Romero back af­ter miss­ing an en­tire sea­son will be al­most like adding a new player for the Mon­treal Im­pact.

The Ar­gen­tine mid­fielder feels at home in Im­pact blue and black, hav­ing been with the club for four years and win­ning the Guiseppe Sa­puto Tro­phy as the team’s most valu­able player in 2014.

“I’m not 100 per cent yet but I feel very good and I’m very happy to be here with the group,’’ Romero said Tues­day af­ter a 90-minute work­out with his team­mates on the synthetic turf at Olympic Sta­dium. “t was dif­fi­cult. It was my first in­jury like this and I hope it was my last, but that part is gone and I’m look­ing for­ward.’’

Romero, 27, hasn’t played in a game that counts since he tore the an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his right knee dur­ing a game in Den­ver on Oct. 14, 2015. He was sup­posed to be out between six and nine months, but last Au­gust the club an­nounced he would miss the rest of the sea­son.

He still feels some sore­ness when he gets up in the morn­ing, but he is able to train with­out any prob­lems and is aim­ing to be ready for the reg­u­lar sea­son opener March 4 in San Jose.

“He’s been in every train­ing, he worked hard and he did well in the test­ing,’’ said coach Mauro Biello. “We’re very happy with how he’s pro­gressed.

“It’s nor­mal that you don’t find your rhythm right away af­ter not play­ing for more than a year, so we want to be pa­tient. But we also want to bring him along be­cause we know he can help the team when he’s at 100 per cent.’’

Now the ques­tion is where he will fit back into the puz­zle. While he was away, the Im­pact took their big­gest steps for­ward since join­ing Ma­jor League Soc­cer in 2012.

Mon­treal reached the se­cond round of the 2015 play­offs be­fore los­ing to Colum­bus. The Im­pact fol­lowed that with a trip with the 2016 East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal, where they lost to Toronto FC in over­time.

Late last sea­son, Biello found a win­ning com­bi­na­tion up front with Ig­na­cio Pi­atti on the left side, Do­minic Oduro on the right and new­comer Mat­teo Man­cuso in the mid­dle.

Romero, an at­tack­ing mid­fielder, may have a bat­tle on his hands for play­ing time. Biello is con­fi­dent that Romero will end up get­ting his share of min­utes on the field.

“We know he can play out wide in both po­si­tions and he likes to come in­side when he plays out wide,’’ the third-year coach said, adding that Romero could also be an in­side mid­fielder in a 4-3-3 for­ma­tion. “He has the abil­ity to beat you on the drib­ble or make a fi­nal pass.

“His work rate is very good. If you want to play in the mid­dle you need that. We’re try­ing him in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions. We want to bring him along, but he be­comes a very good op­tion once he’s 100 per cent.’’

CP PHOTO

Mon­treal Im­pact’s An­dres Romero cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing against Chicago Fire dur­ing se­cond half MLS soc­cer ac­tion in Mon­treal, Sept. 23, 2015. Hav­ing Romero back af­ter miss­ing an en­tire sea­son will be al­most like adding a new player for the Mon­treal Im­pact.

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