En Garde: Impact coach says team is ready to counter Orlando's offensive threats

MONTREAL — Impact coach Remi Garde insists Montreal can contain Orlando City's many offensive threats, including newly added Portuguese star Nani.

Montreal (1-1-0) visits Orlando (0-0-2) on Saturday afternoon in the third Major League Soccer game of the season for both clubs.

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Orlando City is brimming with attack-minded players like Sacha Kljestan, Tesho Akindele, Dom Dwyer and now Nani, who signed a three-year deal with the club last month.

"They have a lot of intensity and they play very physical," said Garde before training on Thursday. "They have Nani now, who's always been a very good player, he proved that in Europe. They have good offensive players.

"But we're not going there to play the victim. We're not going there to be walked all over."

Nani won four English Premier League titles and a Champions League title with Manchester United between 2008 and 2013. The 32-year-old midfielder also helped Portugal win the 2016 European Cup.

The new designated player is already making team history just two games into his MLS career. Last week, Nani became the first Orlando City player to record an assist in each of his first two games with the club.

"We have a lot of respect for this player," said Garde. "As a European staff, we know him very well. He will be a threat for us. But the game is not about being scared of what the opponent has. We need to be a threat for the opponent.

"I want us to have a winning spirit like we had in San Jose."

The Impact have produced two very different performances to begin this new campaign.

In the season opener against the Earthquakes, Montreal's staunch defending and clinical finishing gave them a rare 2-1 road victory. Last week in Houston, a sluggish and sloppy Impact side squandered a lead and conceded a late goal for a 2-1 defeat.

"We didn't have a good game in Houston, that's why we lost," said midfielder Ignacio Piatti, who also said the heat was a major factor in Texas. "We were all a little tired. That game was good because it showed us what not to do.

"If we play this season like we did in San Jose, we're going to win a lot of games on the road."

Piatti has been particularly dominant against Orlando in his career. The Argentine has scored eight goals in nine games versus the Lions. Dwyer has been equally efficient against Montreal, with nine goals in 10 games. He has four braces against the Impact.

Montreal's midfield may look different on Saturday if Harry Novillo is healthy enough to make his Impact debut.

The Martinique international joined the Impact in the off-season, but a hamstring injury has kept him out of the starting lineup. If the 27-year-old is fit to play Saturday, he will replace Orji Okwonkwo on the wing to Piatti's right.

Holding midfielder Michael Azira believes the key to Montreal's success lies in how quickly the midfield can feed striker Maximiliano Urruti up top.

"We need to get the ball forward a little bit quicker," said Azira, who has one assist this season. "With Maxi's speed, we need to utilize that a little more. We build a lot from the back but we need to transition faster to use that speed up front."

The Impact will be looking to win their fourth straight game versus the Lions. Montreal recorded back-to-back clean sheets against Orlando last season.

"It will be a tough game, they have really good players and they're very organized," Orlando City coach James O'Connor told the team's website this week. "We're really pleased to get home and play in front of our supporters. It's a game we're very excited about and looking forward to."

MONTREAL IMPACT (1-1-0) AT ORLANDO CITY SC (0-0-2)

Saturday, Orlando City Stadium

THREE'S COMPANY?: Impact designated player Saphir Taider has two goals already to start the year — one in each game. Taider had seven goals in all of last season.

WOUNDED PRIDE: Orlando City have only won once in their last 17 MLS matches dating back to last season. They have two wins in their last 27. City drew their first two games of this season.

LYON RUMOURS: Garde dismissed rumours this week suggesting he may leave the Impact to join French club Olympique Lyonnais, a team he managed from 2011 to 2014.

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Impact defender Daniel Lovitz was selected by the United States national team for two upcoming friendlies. Canada selected defender Zachary Brault-Guillard and midfielder Samuel Piette.

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