No matter which way you slice it the 2014 MLS season was a tough one for the Montreal Impact players, management and fans. It was their third season in MLS and in season two they had made the playoffs so expectations were high going into the third. Unfortunately the results did not match what was hoped for and they finished the regular season in last place in the Eastern Conference. Even worse they finished in the basement overall in the entire league. Nothing really to shout from the top of the mountains about. While most of the season was a struggle for players and fans alike there were some bright spots.
With the loss of veterans like Davy Arnaud, Alessandro Nesta and Jeb Brovsky it made sense that some younger players would be given their chance to shine. Young veterans like Jack McInerney and Andrés Romero both showed that the future looks brighter for the Impact. McInerney, who is only 22, did not get tons of playing time behind Marco Di Vaio (more about him later), but did show an incredible goal scoring touch at times. The real revelation of the season was Argentinean winger, Andrés Romero. After finishing last season with an embarrassing red card in the playoff game which earned him a suspension to begin the 2014 season, Romero was voted the team’s Player of the Year due to his consistent play. He trebled his goal output to 6 this season and was involved in several goals by other players. The player that made the most of the playing time for young players was holding midfielder Calum Mallace. In the second half of the season due to injury and lack of quality at that position the Scottish born Mallace in his third season with the team started 12 games and seemed to solidify himself in the starting line-up. While they did not play as much as Calum Mallace, young players like Maxim Tissot, Karl W. Ouimette, Wandrille Lefèvre, Eric Miller, Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, and Anthony Jackson-Hamel showed some progression and interesting potential.
The team did earn its second straight Canadian Championship and have advanced to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Somehow they were able to up their quality for these games and win the vast majority of them. The quarterfinals will only take place in early 2015 and the Impact’s opponents will be the Mexican side, Pachuca. It will be a home and away series with the second game taking place in Montreal in early March.
The Impact only managed 6 victories all season long with none of them coming on the road. Pretty sad. The glass half full version of that is that they played much better soccer over the last third of the season. Frank Klopa took a while to get his team playing up to the standards of the league, but once they got things sorted out the team looked much better.
Despite the fact that he only came to the team with a third of the season remaining, Argentinean midfielder Ignacio Piatti gave Impact fans an indication of the impactful player he can be. His arrival to the team coincided with the Impact’s improved play. He is creative in the midfield and has great vision on the field. Coupled with his almost immediate connection with striker Di Vaio and his pace, Piatti was able to be the architect behind many of the goals the team scored. Over the course of the 6 regular season games he played Piatti scored 4 goals and had one assist. It was another good designated player signing by the team.
After such a tough season you knew that management along with coach/Director of Player Personnel Frank Klopas would be making some changes. A few weeks back the Impact announced that they would not be picking up the option on the contract of veteran central defenders Matteo Ferrari and Futty Danso’s contracts as well as those of midfielders Zakaria Messoudi and James Bissue. Each team has to make decisions like this based on the salary cap. Klopas also said that more player decisions would be made in the upcoming weeks. Several question marks hang over the heads of players like Troy Perkins, Felipe and Patrice Bernier.
The team already knew that Italian striker and the team’s first designated player, Marco Di Vaio, would not be returning with the club. Shortly before the team’s last regular season game Di Vaio announced he was retiring at the end of the season from professional soccer. In his three seasons with the team he has brought much to the Impact. Besides his goal scoring ability he has brought passion, respectability and a known face to a club that desperately needed all that. Merci Marco!
Expectations for the 2015 season should be tempered for the young (in regards to numbers of years in MLS) club. Klopas and the rest of management can sign a designated player to replace Di Vaio. They were down in Argentina a couple of weeks ago looking at players. Rumours have been swirling, not necessarily for the Impact, around players like Steven Gerrard, Wesley Sneijer and Michael Essien. Most of those names seem like they would be pipe dreams, but the new club in New York was able to sign David Villa and Frank Lampard so we can dream. Montreal also has the chance to pick up a player or two in the dispersal draft regarding Chivas FC. The Impact have the sixth pick in the draft. This is a team that has a few holes it needs to fill (central defender, striker, outside defender) and unless they do I think that next season could be very much like the 2014 one.