Return to Carolina six months following controversial elimination...

However, the players are going to need to find other sources of motivation to win its first game, instead of trying to avenge the infamous semi-final return leg loss on October 17 against the RailHawks.

Only eight of the 14 players used in the return-game series and nine of the 18 players in uniform for those games are still with the club.

Looking back, the Impact won the first leg 1-0 in Montreal before losing by a 2-0 score in Cary, where the referee in charge allowed a goal that originated from an offside position, and then disallowed a goal scored by the Impact in extra time that would have forced over time.

“The message before any game needs to touch all members of the squad,” explained Impact head coach Marc Dos Santos. “If we still had the majority of the players from the 2010 team, then I may have used the revenge angle from that controversial game. The players need to develop the same emotions and be on the same level following the coaching staff’s message. However we need to rebound from our loss in Tampa Bay.”

The message was received loud and clear by veteran Antonio Ribeiro, but he can’t help but have a few thoughts about the heartbreaking semi-final elimination.

“It will definitely serve as motivation for me as we all thought we were going to the finals to bring back another championship to Montreal,” said Ribeiro. “We felt it was really unjust, so the game on Saturday will give us a good opportunity to rebound. The guys from last year all have bad tastes left in their mouths from last year’s loss.”

The same goes for captain Nevio Pizzolitto.

“Even if we are able to forget about the past to better concentrate on the present, it will be difficult to run onto the field in Cary under the same conditions and ambiance, against the same team, with the same colours... We definitely want to prove that we are the better team.”

The player most penalized following that game was lateral defender Richard Pelletier, who was given a six game suspension.

“I feel that my suspension was a little severe, but that’s all a part of football,” he said. “It’s hard because I never made a reproach towards the referee. I just tapped the corner flag. We are now playing against those very same RailHawks and if the guys could go out and get the victory, it will be like a revenge of sorts, even if I can’t be on the field with them. This forced absence from the pitch is frustrating, but I am working hard in training and I will be ready for the Canadian Nutrilite Championship. When the team will need me, I will be ready.”

His fellow national Kevin Hatchi is forced to hear stories in order to understand what took place, as he was not yet a member of the Impact, but his own motivation is very clear.

“For me, the motivation will come from being able to take part in my first game with the Impact as my papers are finally in order. I’m anxious to make the acquaintances of our rivals on the field.”

Another player suspended for his on-field antics following the final whistle of the semi-final versus the RailHawks was central defender Hicham Aaboubou, who is itching to get back into the starting line-up.

“It’s not going to be the same type of game as last year as the environment will be a little different. The RailHawks have a lot of new players as well. Needless to say, we want to win to show the fans in Montreal that we are able to return from Carolina with the win.”

Amir Lowery, the most recent player recruited by the Impact, will be stuck between a rock and a hard place, this Saturday, as he’s played his last two seasons in a Carolina uniform and played the full 90 minutes in that second leg match.

“It’s quite special for me to find myself on the other side of the mirror, especially after that infamous semi-final,” he said. “It’s very evident that some of my new teammates have not digested that result. For my part, I have a different feeling as it’s nice to return so quickly to Carolina to see some of my old teammates, particularly my closest friends Matt Watson and Brad Rusin. It will be a special game.”

Martin Smith, Impact Media