MONTREAL - The Montreal Impact hope their backup goalkeeper can help the team return to winning ways.
Evan Bush will get the start in goal for the second consecutive game when the Impact, hoping to halt a three-game losing skid, take on Real Salt Lake on Thursday night in Utah.
The 28-year-old Bush, who had yet to start for the Impact in Major League Soccer this season prior to last Saturday's 2-1 defeat in Columbus, is getting the nod in place of veteran goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
"Why wouldn't he?," said manager Frank Klopas when asked if Bush would start against Salt Lake. "He deserves the opportunity to be in there and he had a very good game against Columbus, regardless of the score line."
Bush made four saves on six shots in Columbus, giving up two goals to midfielder Bernardo Anor. The Venezuelan beat Bush low to his left in the 56th minute with a strike from the top of the 18-yard box. In the 75th, Anor's right-footed shot from distance curled away from Bush and flew into the top corner of the net for the game-winner.
Since joining the Impact in 2011, Montreal's backup 'keeper has started just three MLS matches (0-3-0), played in four CONCACAF Champions League games (2-2-0), and led the team to back-to-back Canadian Championships (3-2-3) in 2013 and 2014.
"That's part of being on a team," said Bush, who has yet to record a victory in North America's highest league. "Within a team, you have changes based on different situations. You have to step in when they call upon you."
Bush was called upon to replace Perkins, Montreal's starter since being acquired by the Impact in 2012. The Ohio native had made all 17 starts for the Impact in MLS before last Saturday's match. The week before, in the dying minutes of a game against Sporting Kansas City, a defensive mistake by Perkins cost Montreal a point and may have ultimately cost Perkins his starter's role.
Klopas, however, insists the decision to start Bush is simply to reduce Perkins' workload.
"Troy is very good. But with the amount of games, maybe he's not as sharp, maybe he's a little bit tired," said Klopas. "It's just about form. It's the same with players on the field. The guys have to understand that if they work hard, they're going to get opportunities to play. Guys are going to come in and out of form. You have to use the depth of a squad.
"We have two very good goalkeepers, including a younger guy who's pushing, who's eager to play, but who needs time. (Bush) has been looking good and sharp in training sessions and in the game he's played."
If the Impact (3-10-5) hope to record their first road victory of the year, Bush will likely have to put together the best performance of his young MLS career against third-place Real Salt Lake (7-4-8). The last-place Impact have offered their goalies little offensive support this season, scoring a league-low one goal per game.
The numbers are even worse on the road. Montreal has just six goals away from Saputo Stadium for a minus-11 goal differential.
The lone bright spot going into Thursday may be Marco Di Vaio's rejuvenation. The Italian striker, who had scored just once in eight appearances to start the year, has three goals in his last four games.
Di Vaio will be looking to add to Real Salt Lake's recent woes. After starting the 2014 campaign unbeaten in their first 12 games, Jeff Kassar's men have lost four of their last seven, scoring just five goals over that stretch.
Despite the poor run of form, Real Salt Lake can always rely on Joao Plata and Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio, who have scored eight and six times respectively this season.
"It's going to be a good challenge," said defender Hassoun Camara. "They're one of the best teams of the league. Why not win over there? If we're going, it's because we think we can get something out of the game. We're not going there just to look pretty."
"They're a good possession team, they're good with the ball," added Klopas. "They have quality players who are comfortable on the ball and in their decision-making. They give good tempo to the game - they know when to speed things up and when to slow things down. They push numbers forward; their outside backs get involved in the game."
Since returning from the World Cup break last month, the Impact have put together a few solid performances, but have a 1-3-1 record to show for them.
With 16 games remaining on the season, Montreal is currently nine points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Their current three-game losing streak is the team's longest since opening the season with three straight losses.
"There's a lot of frustration, for sure," said captain Patrice Bernier. "You play well, but you don't get the result, you aren't rewarded.
"We're losing because of minor details. We're losing by one goal; we're not getting crushed. At this point in the season, we're paying the price for the smallest misstep. There's a bit of bad luck, sure. We can't give up even the slightest of chances."
Bernier assures the question marks surrounding the team's starting goaltender are not an added distraction.
"Nobody's thinking about that," he said. "We're in a period of changes. There may be more changes coming on Thursday. There's no single player that can be blamed. We all want to win — the coach, the entire team. We're just looking for that winning recipe right now. It's up to us, collectively, to make sure we support all players who have seen better days."
Notes: Winger Justin Mapp is questionable for Thursday's game. Mapp, who has been dealing with a groin injury this season, walked out of training on Tuesday after less than an hour. … Defender Eric Miller and newcomer Gorka Larrea will not dress for the Impact on Thursday. … Perkins sports one of the lowest save percentages this season amongst goalies with at least 10 starts (64 per cent). … The Impact play a third game in nine nights when they face the Portland Timbers at home on Sunday. … Montreal opens its 2014-2015 Champions League campaign when the team welcomes El Salvador's FAS to Saputo Stadium on Aug. 8.