With the FIFA international window (Aug. 31-Sept. 8) beginning Monday, the time is now for Fire head coach Frank Yallop to assess the depth of his squad ahead of Saturday's trip to face the Montreal Impact.
David Accam (Ghana), Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago) and Matt Polster (United States Under-23) all went the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC Saturday night, and departed The Sunshine State Sunday morning to team up with their respective national squads. With newly acquired defender Daneil Cyrus (Trinidad and Tobago) and Collin Fernandez (U.S. U-20) joining them, the excursion to Stade Saputo on Sept. 5 will present unique challenges for the Fire technical staff during training this week.
“We’re going to be missing some key players, but we’re hoping that the little bit of momentum in the last league games we’ve had can carry us through,” Yallop told reporters Monday via teleconference.
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Accam - one of the club's prominent attack-minded signings during the offseason - produced a goal and an assist in his previous two outings, and was named to the MLS Team of the Week for his exploits. The Ghanaian could feature in the Black Stars' friendly against Congo on Tuesday and the African Cup of Nations qualifier against Rwanda on Sept. 4.
The 24-year-old's absence for the journey to face the Impact will create a void on the left flank, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. Yallop must compensate for two other key starters away on international duty this week - Jones and Polster - and fathom how to devise a balanced team sheet in the coming days before a bout with their Eastern Conference foe.
The absence of Jones and Cyrus, who'll be in contention to start for Trinidad and Tobago's friendly with Mexico on Sept. 4 at Rio Tinto Stadium, prompted the second-year head coach to recall defender Patrick Doody from his loan stint with USL side Saint Louis FC, with fullback Greg Cochrane waiting in the wings as another apt replacement, according to Yallop.
In terms of playing time, the international dates can wreak havoc for MLS squads that play through the window, with injury concerns at the forefront of the conversation. Yallop engaged in varying levels of dialogue with Ghana, Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S. U-23 men's national team after learning of Accam, Cyrus - who's yet to officially join the Fire - Jones and Polster's call-ups within the last week.
"Polster basically has been asked to go the last two trips before [Friday’s call-up], and I’ve basically stopped that in chatting and talking to the coaching staff over there," Yallop added. "At some point I’ve got to abide by the rules and let him go. This is a trip that is very important to them; it’s their preparation [for Olympic qualifying]. I expect him to play 90 minutes in the first game [Sept. 3 vs. England], and we spoke a little bit of not playing as much on Tuesday [Sept. 8 vs. Qatar] so he’s available for our game on Friday [Sept. 11 at New York Red Bulls].
“I’ve spoken to [Trinidad and Tobago] coach [Stephen Hart]. He’ll look at the minutes, but they don’t have many defenders, so Daneil and JJ – Trinidad are a little bit light on defenders – should still be okay for our next game [at New York].”