ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. â€” As Maxime Crepeau talked to the media on one side of the pitch at Al Lang Stadium, fellow goalkeeper Evan Bush could be seen across the field â€” contorting his body atop a jumbo water cooler in a post-practice solo workout.
Bush, the Montreal Impact’s No. 1 ‘keeper, is both Crepeau’s mentor and competition. For the 22-year-old Crepeau, who has moved up to No. 2 in the Impact pecking order this season, it is do as Evan does.
Bush’s exhaustive workout regimen â€” his body would put a personal trainer to shame â€” is already rubbing off.
Every time Crepeau went to the Impact’s training centre back home, he noticed the 30-year-old Bush was already hard at work the gym. Now Crepeau joins him.
“As a young guy, I was a little bit less in the gym before,” Crepeau said. “Now maybe three, four times a week I’ll be in the gym with him before the (training) sessions and work on what we have to work (on) outside of football.”
Crepeau will be showcased Wednesday against the Philadelphia Union in a pre-season game in nearby Clearwater. Head coach Mauro Biello says the young ‘keeper will play the full match.
Biello plans to rotate the rest of his squad, so his starters will be fresh to play the full 90 minutes of Saturday’s pre-season finale against the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL in St. Petersburg. Montreal opens the regular season March 4 in San Jose.
“I’ll mix up the team. Maybe some probable starters may not play in the game (Wednesday),” Biello said. “At the same time, it’s an opportunity for a lot of players to play against an MLS team and show what they can do.”
Trialists Anthony Wallace and Daniel Lovitz, formerly of Toronto FC, are looking to make their mark. Former Red Bull Chris Duvall is challenging Hassoun Camara at right back.
Fullback Ambroise Oyongo worked out by himself Tuesday after arriving late to camp following the Africa Cup of Nations. Forward Dominic Oduro also was not part of the main training session, saying later it was a precautionary measure.
Crepeau moves into the backup role this season because former No. 2 Eric Kronberg is beginning the transition into coaching with the Impact. That was made clear when the 33-year-old signed a new one-year deal in early January.
Kronberg will train with the team and coach the young players left behind when Montreal goes on the road.
“Max has done a great job,” Kronberg said at the time. “He’s ready, and I don’t really want to be No. 2 anymore.”
Neither does Crepeau, who has ambitions to be No. 1 for both the Impact and Canada.
“I’m not happy with the No. 2 spot,” he said. “I’m going to push for Evan’s spot, for sure. He knows and that’s the reality of it. … We’re both winners, Evan and I and also Erik. We’re winners and we want to play.”
Bush has not exactly left the door open, playing 72 regular-season and playoff games over the last two years. Kronberg, in comparison, appeared in only five regular-season games and six Amway Canadian Championship matches over the same period.
Crepeau, a native of Candiac, Que., who joined the Impact academy at 15 in 2010 and became a homegrown player in 2013, has yet to make his league debut. He did play 45 minutes in a 2-0 exhibition loss to AS Roma last August.
“Maxime is a good young player,” said Biello. “He’s been with this club for many years and we’ve seen the evolution. Last year he was able to play with FC (Montreal) in the USL and have real minutes and good minutes. He had some real good games and he’s been sharp in training.”
Crepeau has one cap for the Canadian national team, in a 1-0 loss to the U.S. in Carson, Calif., in February 2016. He was also called into camp for a pair of World Cup qualifiers last September.
And he has had training stints with Bologna FC in Italy, Fortuna Dusseldorf’s under-23 team in Germany, and most recently KV Kortrijk in Belgium.
“I know I’m ready,” Crepeau said. “The guys on the pitch believe that I can do the job when I have to step in. Obviously I’m really happy about the new opportunity and that the club has the confidence to put me in that role.”
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press