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Bojan's improved play is good timing for Impact, who are winless in last 5 games

Bojan unleashed a long bomb for his first goal of the season just over a week ago against the New York Red Bulls.
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Bojan unleashed a long bomb for his first goal of the season just over a week ago against the New York Red Bulls.

Montreal went on to lose the game 4-1, but Bojan's highlight-reel strike less than four minutes into the match was a good sign for an Impact squad that desperately needs the former Barcelona player at his best. 

The Impact face the Crew on Wednesday in Columbus in a tale of two teams. The Crew sit atop the MLS Eastern Conference standings, while Montreal is ninth and winless in four of its past five games.

Bojan has been a bright light during the stretch, playing with more aggression, *taking more shots and attacking the box.

"It's my football, the way that I like to play," Bojan said after Tuesday's practice. "I know which player I am, I know what I can bring to the field. 

"I've been injured, it's been a weird year, I don't know how many pre-seasons we did already (due to COVID-19 changes to the schedule). But I don't want to take these as an excuse. I know every game is a new game, you need to progress, you need to feel good on the field. And that's what I'm feeling right now."

Bojan, who was known as "the next Messi" when he was breaking records as a youngster at Barcelona, was signed by the Impact just over a year ago. He scored three goals in the eight games he played last season. He has the one goal plus one assist in 10 appearances this season. 

Impact coach Thierry Henry said he'd spoken with the attacking midfielder, and that "Bojan knows what he needs to do."

Henry said he also knows how a goal can boost a player's confidence. 

"Bojan is a guy that if he turns and shoots and goes forward and turns the right way is a difficult guy to defend as you saw on that first goal the other day," Henry said. "In a one-v-one situation, when he's in that mood, it's very difficult to stop him when he drops his shoulder and goes and tries to score and has the desire to score."

Bojan appreciates Henry's confidence. 

"(Henry) is helping or pushing, whatever you want to say, to make this happen. He knows me as a player. He knows what I can bring to the team," the Spaniard said. "He wants to see that I'm more in the box, that I'm going to the goal, and that's what I want as well, to be more involved with goals, with assists. 

"I'm a player who also enjoys playing with the ball. So with more shots, with more goals, I'm going to be happy, the coach for sure is going to to be more happy, and as a team as well."

Wednesday's game kicks off a gruelling stretch of six road games in 20 days, the harsh reality for all three vagabond Canadian MLS teams, who can't host games north of the border due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Henry was asked whether it helps having become accustomed to the hectic travel schedule. 

"What would help is to stay at home . . . nobody likes not being obviously in your own habitat, and your own way of living," the coach said. "But it is what it is. We have to adjust to that with what we have to deal with, it's a tight schedule, tough schedule. . . we have to adjust and adapt."

Bojan, who arrived in Montreal from Stoke City, might not be long for the Impact. His contract expires at the end of the year, with a team option. 

He admitted the uncertainty has been on his mind. 

"In four days, it's going to be like nine months that I'm not at home, that I don't see my family, I don't see my people. It's been a difficult year in life, it's not only about football," he said. 

"Football is something that I love a lot, I want to play, I want to be competitive, but at this point I need to think about a lot of things. But not now. Now we have games, now the season is on, we want to be in the playoffs, we want to go as far as as we can, and the time is going to come to decide and to think about what was the best for me, for the next step."

The Impact continue their schedule Sunday at Philadelphia.

Montreal announced Tuesday that 21-year-old midfielder Mathieu Choinière will undergo surgery to his right foot this Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2020.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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