MONTREAL â€” Veteran Dominic Oduro and youngster Anthony Jackson-Hamel both say they’re ready to take on extra work while striker Matteo Mancosu recovers from a thigh injury.
It will be up to coach Mauro Biello and his staff to decide whether to move the speedy Oduro from the right wing to centre forward or make Jackson-Hamel the starter in the six-to-eight weeks that Mancosu will be on the sidelines. The only other forward on the roster is six-foot-five rookie Nick DePuy, who may also see some game action.
“You respect the coaches decision wherever he places you,” Oduro said Wednesday. “I’m not a stranger to that position.
“I played it fairly well last year at the beginning until Didier (Drogba) came back. If he wants me to stay on the wing and put Jackson up top, it’s whatever it takes for us to win games. If my number’s called I’ll be ready no matter what position.”
Mancosu went down in the fourth minute of a 2-1 loss at home Saturday to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Jackson-Hamel replaced him and alertly let Marco Donadel’s long range shot go past him and into the net five minutes later.
The goal was originally credited to Jackson-Hamel, which would have given the Quebec City native four goals in his first 42 minutes of playing time this season, but it was rightly changed to Donadel.
“I didn’t touch it,” said the 23-year-old Jackson-Hamel, who left the match on a stretcher in the 73rd minute due to cramps.
Now there’s a chance he will become a starter, but since he was unable to finish his longest outing this season, Oduro is the favourite to move into the striker’s spot, at least for now.
“Of course it’s an opportunity,” said Jackson-Hamel. “I’ve been working hard, waiting for an opportunity.
“We never want a teammate to be injured, but we have to be ready when it happens. I’ll let the staff make their decision, but I’m ready.”
Oduro, a 12-year Major League Soccer veteran on seven teams, started last season at striker when the since-departed Drogba sat out a handful of games because his aging knees couldn’t handle artificial surfaces. The Ghana native scored in each of a pair of wins to start the 2016 campaign.
When Mancosu arrived from Italy in July and looked immediately at home in MLS, it seemed that Oduro would be relegated to bench duty. But a controversial late-season decision by Biello to play Drogba off the bench and put Oduro on right wing clicked. The team went on a tear that took them to the Eastern Conference final.
In five playoff games, Mancosu and star midfielder Ignacio Piatti had four goals each while Oduro had two. The spiky-haired Oduro was given a two-year contract extension in December.
But the same combination has been slow out of the blocks this season. The Impact (1-3-4) sit 10th in the conference heading into a game Saturday at D.C. United. Mancosu had two goals in eight games. Oduro has one.
Jackson-Hamel has been the scoring star of the early season, coming off the bench to get the game-winner in added time against Atlanta and adding two more a week later in a draw in Philadelphia.
“The positive is that we know what Oduro can give us up top,” said assistant coach Jason Di Tullio. “He played there at the beginning of last year and scored some big goals before Didier came in.
“We know what to expect â€” the pace to get in behind and the composure under pressure. Jackson has the physical aspect of getting stuck-in in the box. DePuy is a lot bigger, good in the air and clean technically. So we’re happy we have these options. Now we have to decide what profile we want up top and we’ll make that decision pretty quickly.”
The Impact had another forward, little-used Michael Salazar, but opted to loan him to Ottawa of the NASL this week to get some playing time.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press