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International call-ups for Monteiro, Mbaizo create tight timeline for first Champions League match

Philadelphia Union duo will be gone for two African Cup of Nations qualifiers, including a game against each other on Friday

Carl Gulbish

Jamiro Monteiro and Olivier Mbaizo are both joining up with their national teams for two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, including a game against each other, the Philadelphia Union announced on Monday.

It’s of course a good sign to see both players representing their countries — Monteiro for Cape Verde and Mbaizo for Cameroon — but the timeline will be tight for both, given Covid-19 protocols, to be available for the first Concacaf Champions League match on April 7 in Costa Rica.

Cape Verde will play their fifth and sixth qualifying matches when they face Cameroon on March 26 and Mozambique on March 30. Cameroon plays Cape Verde on March 26 and Rwanda on March 30.

Monteiro has earned nine caps for Cape Verde, eight in Africa Cup of Nations qualification matches and one in an international friendly. Mbaizo has three caps for the Indomitable Lions, which won the competition in 2017.

If Mbaizo isn’t able to make it to the April 7 match, rookie Nathan Harriel would be in line to make his first team debut in the club’s first Champions League match. Monteiro’s absence would be a big blow to a midfield that already looks stretched thin if Jose Martinez’s injury in Saturday’s preseason match against the Chicago Fire keeps him out for an extended period.

Outside of starters Alejandro Bedoya and Anthony Fontana and veteran super sub Ilsinho, the only other midfielders on the first team roster with previous MLS experience are Jack de Vries (12 minutes) and Cole Turner (3 minutes).