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Impact wary of Joe Public

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Impact wary of Joe Public


MONTREAL - Joe Public will be no ordinary opponent for the Montreal Impact.

The oddly named club from Trinidad and Tobago visits Saputo Stadium for the opening match of the group stage of the first CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night.

Joe Public is coming off a 6-1 aggregate trouncing of the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer in a two-game opening-round series last month. Montreal beat Real Esteli of Nicaragua 1-0 to reach the group stage.

"We expect an athletic, physical and difficult game," Impact coach John Limniatis said Tuesday. "They have explosive players who take risks attacking, which should leave us some openings.

"We have to be very disciplined in our coverage and get the ball quickly out of our zone."

The two teams are in a tough group with Atlante of Mexico and CD Olimpia of Honduras. The clubs will play each another twice over the next six weeks. The top two teams from each of four groups advance to the quarter-finals in February.

Coach Keith Griffith said his team was named Joe Public when it was formed in 1996 because it "belongs to the people," even though it is owned by FIFA vice-president Jack Warner.

About half the roster of the 2006 champion of the 10-team league in the West Indian islands are from Trinidad, with the rest from Caribbean neighbours like Jamaica and Haiti, as well as Colombian goalkeeper Alejandro Figueroa and Guyanese striker Gregory Richardson.

Richardson scored three goals and set up another by Jamal Gay as Joe Public thrashed the Revolution 4-0 in the second leg of their home-and-home series in Foxborough, Mass., on Aug. 26. It was the first time a Caribbean side defeated an American squad in CONCACAF club competition.

"The fans said it was the best game they've seen a team from Trinidad play in 20 years," said Griffith. "We took it to another level.

"If they had injuries, that's not our fault. It enhanced the image of football in Trinidad that we beat an MLS club."

The Revolution had several starters out of the lineup for the match. And Limniatis said New England seemed to give up after allowing the first goal to Joe Public.

"The last three goals were awful - it was like I was in goal," said Limniatis, a former Impact defender. "They're a dangerous team, but if we play intelligently, we should beat them."

One player who knows Joe Public is striker Peter Byers, who played in their league before joining the Impact in mid-season.

"They come in hard and we have to look out for that," said Byers."I'm still confident.

"It's our home and we have to beat them here."

The Impact are without midfielder David Testo, who was shown the yellow card twice against Real Esteli and is suspended for the match. Also, defender Gabriel Gervais (thigh), midfielder Patrick Leduc (ankle) and forward Roberto Brown (knee) are out.

Veteran Mauro Biello is back from injury, but isn't expected to start.

The Impact's second CONCACAF game is also at home next week against Atlante, the Cancun club that is favoured to finish first. Biello said a good start is important because, "you need maximum points at home to have a chance" in a round robin event."

The Impact was elated to beat out Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Nutrilite Canadian Championships this summer to become the lone Canadian entry in the Champions League for CONCACAF - which includes North and South America plus the Caribbean.

But it has put the club in a scheduling squeeze that will test its depth.

After facing Joe Public, the Impact ends its USL regular season with games Saturday night in Minnesota and Sunday at home against Puerto Rico. Then the club plays Atlante at home three days later.

Montreal just returned from a two-game trip to the west coast on which it clinched a playoff spot, so post-season games will also mix into its Champions League schedule.

It has also been hard on the team's new pitch, which was clawed into an unsightly mess during a World Cup qualifying match last week between Canada and Honduras. The field has been patched and has had a week to recover, but a few small divots came up Tuesday during training.

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