Spring must be just around the corner as the Montreal Impact’s season begins tomorrow evening. The 2014 regular season of the MLS begins for the Montreal Impact on Saturday, March 8 with a game on the road against the FC Dallas and then move on to Houston for their second game of the season. The team’s first home game will be at the Olympic Stadium on March 22 against the Seattle Sounders.
The off season has been an interesting one with its lack of player signings and with the firing of another coach. The Impact will be heading into their 3rd season in the MLS with their third head coach. This time it is Frank Klopas, a former head coach of the Chicago Fire, who is replacing Marco Schallibaum. Schallibaum led the Impact to their first appearance in the MLS playoffs, but apparently that wasn’t good enough. Also the way the team ended the season did not leave a good taste in the mouth of fans or team management/owners. In the final half of the season the team pretty much collapsed and only made it into the playoffs due to their strong play in the first half of the season. Then in the game against the Houston Dynamo they not only did not compete, but two players, Marco Di Vaio and Andres Romero, were red carded and then subsequently suspended for their behaviour. Obviously owner Joey Saputo was looking for more from his team.
Klopas is being charged with making the playoffs again with pretty much the same line-up. A few players are gone from the side. Captain Davy Arnaud was traded to Washington and the legend in central defence, Alessandro Nesta, retired. Fringe players like Andrea Pisanu and Daniele Paponi also were released. Klopas has his work cut out for him.
It is hard to replace a legend like Nesta. Klopas has focused on defence over his pre season training sessions with the team. He will have to plug the hole with a young player. It looks like that player is going to be the team’s recent draft choice, Eric Miller. That will be a large task for the 21-year-old. If he is not up to it another young defender, Wandrille Lefèvre, could be asked to stand in for him. Thankfully they can rely on the experience of Matteo Ferrari to guide them as it seems like they are being thrown into the deep end.
The team scored 50 goals last season with Di Vaio accounting for 20 of them. He is now 37 years old and his best days have to be behind him. There seems to be no other help for the Italian striker. Teams will be able focus on him and make life hard for the Impact striker.
I’m a little worried that the team has not done anything in the midfield. Midfielders Felipe, newly appointed captain Patrice Bernier, Justin Mapp, Sana Nyassi, Blake Smith, Andres Romero, and Hernan Bernadello are going to have to carry the load and other than Mapp, do more than they did last season. The transfer window came and went and they were inactive.
Experts have predicted that the Impact will be the worst team in the East in the MLS. Members of the team have taken that personally as they should. Little respect is being paid to the team and so they could surprise some people. Also, I have faith in Nick DiSantis’ ability to find some more pieces to round out the squad. Recently he has signed veteran MLS defender Heath Pearce to add depth to the defence and in the off season he signed Uruguayan striker Santiago Gonzalez. I expect him to do more if the team falters.