2013 Montreal Impact Season Outlook
Will 2013 be better?
To be fair, last season was pretty good for an expansion year. However, most people in Montreal felt that the team could have been better, and should have made the playoffs. Several things happened that resulted in the seventh place finish in the east last season:
1: They were horrendous on the road, only nine points in seventeen games.
2: They conceded way too many goals in the final fifteen minutes.
3: They played too many games in a short period of time in the first-half of the season, before the players got used to playing together.
4: Designated player, Marco Di Vaio, like many Designated Players before him, took some time to get accustomed to playing in MLS.
To win in 2013, these problems need to be addressed.
The first problem is winning on the road. Unfortunately, new head coach Marco Schallibaum has no experience with the great distances of North America, and therefore might not know how to deal with this problem. Of course, proper physical preparation can help, but with the two first games in Seattle and Portland, it couldn’t get any tougher.
For the second problem, Schallibaum has focused on endurance training since camp has started. Several players have commented on how fit they feel this spring compared to last season. Being fit could prevent some of the late game meltdowns from last year.
For the third problem, MLS was a lot nicer to the Impact this season. The roughest period will be from the end of April until the beginning of June. If the Impact manage to defeat Toronto in the Amway Canadian Championship semi-final, they will play ten games in five weeks (six league games). This is a lot, but not as bad as last season where the Impact had played more games than any other team until September, then even had two weeks between games.
The final problem, Marco Di Vaio’s adaptation period, is likely over. During the Walt Disney Pro Soccer Classic Di Vaio looked very sharp, and the other players have also learned how he plays. It is nearly certain that Di Vaio will score a lot more goals than last season. He also doesn’t have the pressure of the investigation of match fixing in Italy.
Goalkeepers: Troy Perkins is the number one goalkeeper. He proved his worth as soon as he arrived last season in the Donovan Ricketts trade. This will likely be backup keeper Evan Bush’s last season with the team if he can’t steal Perkins’ place. At 26-years old, Bush can’t afford to wait to win the job, he could start for several other MLS teams, and will likely demand a switch if he doesn’t play this year.
Defense: How can you wish for a better duo than Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari in central defense? Nesta seems determined to play better this season before retiring. On the wings, it would appear that Jeb Brovsky and Hassoun Camara will be starting the season on the left and right sides. Camara has proven his worth over the past two seasons, and can also play in the midfield if necessary. Dennis Iapichino played for Schallibaum in Europe, and will certainly get some playing time. Zarek Valentin could even get shipped out to free some cap space. He would certainly be a good addition to a lot of teams. Nelson Rivas was great in most of the games he played last season, but unfortunately, he didn’t play in very many of them. He seems to be injured constantly, and didn’t play a single minute in the pre-season. If at some point he becomes healthy, he is going to provide needed cover, because Nesta will not play more than 25 games. Home-grown player Karl Ouimette will probably start getting some playing time as the season progresses.
Midfield: Patrice Bernier and Felipe form the center, and will more than likely start at least 30 games each if they stay healthy. Collen Warner is a very good option if they want to play with three central midfielders like last season. On the left, Justin Mapp was often criticized for his inability to last 90 minutes, and for being unable to supply Marco Di Vaio in the box. During the Disney Classic, he appeared to have made the necessary adjustments to keep his job this season. On the right, Davy Arnaud would appear to have lost his job to Andrea Pisanu. Arnaud also had trouble lasting 90 minutes, and spent a lot of time arguing with the officials. I expect he will be traded before summer, and that the team will have to cover some of his salary. Sanna Nyassi will likely be used in a super-sub type of role. He is at his best entering a game when the opposing defenders are tired. He can use his blazing speed to run around everybody. Calum Mallace and Sinisa Ubiparipovic will have to fight for playing time, and will have to be content to play in reserve games, and cup games. This year’s first round pick, Blake Smith, will probably spend most of the year on the bench, he isn’t ready for prime time yet.
Forward: Marco Di Vaio will probably start the season as a lone striker. There are signs that this will be his last season in Montreal, and he will want to finish with something to show for it. He has the technical ability to score 10-15 goals very easily. It will depend on his teammates ability to supply him, and on his work ethic, which seemed lacking at times last season. Unfortunately, last year’s first overall pick in the Superdraft, Andrew Wenger won’t get much playing time to start the season. He will probably play the last 15-20 minutes of games. If Di Vaio tires out, or gets injured, he is more than capable of scoring goals himself. If needed, Sanna Nyassi could be used to play forward occasionally.
This team is strong enough to be able to win the Amway Canadian Championship and qualify for the Champions League, and then the depth in the midfield will come in very handy. Forward, Andrés Romero would also be useful if the team is playing some extra games late this summer.
My prediction for 2013: Fifth place in the east and Canadian Championship winners.
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