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Montreal Impact talk past and future in end-of-season exit interviews

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact player of the 2019 season, Orji Okwonkwo, offered a mixed review of his 2019 MLS campaign at the club’s end-of-season media availability on Tuesday.

Coming in on loan from Serie A’s Bologna FC, Okwonkwo said he joined the Impact to improve as a player. However, he admitted that he felt a tough transition from Italy to North America.

“It’s been a difficult season, trust me,” Okwonkwo said. “I’ve never experienced something like this in my life. When you travel five hours, three hours to play a game, it’s been very difficult. I cannot adapt to it.”

The Nigerian youth international capped off the season scoring his eighth goal and adding an assist in a 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls. Despite getting the honour, Wilmer Cabrera believes that he still has much to learn.

“Orji has unbelievable tools but, in my opinion, he needs to be more focused,” Cabrera said. “Sunday’s game was a great game for him but he needs to be consistent. Consistency and balance is what we need to make young players understand.”

Wilmer added that instilling the concept of consistency is important for young players. For him, it is one of the most important qualities for an MLS player.

“You can’t play one game unbelievably but then if you don’t play the next game at the same level, it will be an unbalance,” Cabrera said. “It’s better to have players that you know what to expect from. That consistency is something that the best players in this league, or the best players in the world bring to their clubs.”

As for Cabrera, the Impact boss is happy about taking the risk that brought him to Montreal after he parted ways with the Houston Dynamo in August. After nine games and a Voyageurs Cup, the Colombian has no regrets.

“It was a risky situation,” Cabrera said. “The players didn’t know me, [the media] didn’t know me, nobody here basically knew about me. The situation was risky but nothing is easy and if you want to accomplish things you gotta take risks.”

Cabrera said that he spoke with sporting director Olivier Renard on Monday but it didn’t pertain to a possible contract extension. Instead, Renard wanted to know Cabrera’s feel for Montreal and the Impact. Ultimately, Cabrera is not nervous as for what his future holds.

“I know what is going to happen with me: I’m going to continue being a coach, here or wherever,” he said. “I’m not worried about my future to be honest with you. I know what I’m capable of, about what I can do.”

Right back Bacary Sagna loves Montreal. At the end of last season, the former French international flew in his whole family which now lives in the city. At the end of his one-year contract extension, Sagna would look forward to helping the team in 2020.

“This meeting [with Renard] was held this morning and it went really, really well,” Sagna said. “We spoke and the club is the priority. We’ll think about it, there will be discussions between the club and my agent.”

“I’m serene. I took a lot of pleasure out of this season and of course I’d like to stay so we’ll see.”

Sagna wants to be back with the Impact in 2020 | USA Today Sports Images

Before singing with the Impact on April 7, Bojan Krkic hadn’t played in four months. Since then, the Spaniard helped the Impact win their first Voyageurs Cup in five years and appreciated the Canadian experience.

“When you feel that someone wants you and someone loves you, it’s the best feeling that you can have,” Bojan said. “If the club is in MLS or in Europe, you want to be competitive, you want to play. Football is the thing that makes me feel most happy in this world so for me when Montreal called me and I felt that feeling, I decided to come here.”

Bojan added that a loan deal for the winter wasn’t in the plans. The 29 year-old said he would concentrate on the club’s fitness plan in order to come back to training camp in January 2020.

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