MONTREAL – Starting games on the bench is not typically seen as a show of confidence. But for Collen Warner, the timing of his late-game appearances is proof that Marco Schällibaum counts on him.
At this point of the Impact’s admirable 2013, Warner has made two appearances as a substitute, totaling 21 minutes. After an espresso-like – short, but strong – cameo in Portland, he came on for an 18-minute defensively-sound showing against Toronto at the Olympic Stadium last Saturday, and it was him that released Felipe for a promising, but ultimately unsuccessful chance to put a third past Joe Bendik in the 88th minute.
Crucially, Warner lost the ball only twice in those 21 minutes, helping his team achieve what he was sent on to ensure: that they would preserve a one-goal advantage.
“It’s definitely been a bit stressful,” Warner told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “Going back to the Toronto game, I got subbed in pretty shortly after Toronto scored. I’m just trying to get as many opportunities as I can to play. Whether they come at the end of the game, or maybe in a tougher situation, it’s okay. I do see it as Marco [Schällibaum] showing some trust and knowing that I can get the job done in those situations.”
The club knows as much, too. Warner, 24, was rewarded with a contract extension on February 28. Remarkably, Warner earned the deal after a season during which he essentially learned the basics of a new position, one that he described, back in June 2012, as “the furthest back I’ve played in the midfield.”
In that respect, the early stages of Warner’s fourth MLS season have been marked by continuity. As a substitute tasked with seeing out games, though, his playing time has decreased.
That is not to say, however, that he now concentrates strictly on defensive duties. Montreal now play with two more offensive midfielders, and Warner believes that his versatility could perhaps land him a spot there if an opportunity springs up.
“I think that with the way I see things and the new passing and movement that we have with this team, it should be a lot easier for me to product some points going forward,” Warner said. “Right now, I think Marco [wants me further back] and I have no problem being there, because you still can create things from back there. It's just a little more responsibility defensively.”