Montreal Impact: 2017 MLS Season Preview

Nov 22, 2016; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; A general view of the crowd watching Montreal Impact host Toronto FC in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2016; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; A general view of the crowd watching Montreal Impact host Toronto FC in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Montreal Impact finished fifth in 2016 and made it to the Conference finals for the first time in their history. Here is a preview of their upcoming season.

Montreal Impact looks to continue their steady progress in the MLS since joining the league as an expansion side in 2012. The Joey Saputo-owned franchise made it to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the third time in their history and qualified for the Conference finals for the first time as well.

But it ended there, in dramatic fashion to rivals Toronto FC 7-5 on aggregate. Following the departure of Didier Drogba and the addition of a few new names to the roster, will the Impact be able to do better in the league and possibly win their first MLS Cup?

Montreal Impact preview 2017
Nov 30, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Impact forward Dominic Oduro (7) celebrates with forward Matteo Mancosu (21) after scoring a goal during the first half in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship against Toronto FC at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

A recap of 2016

Record: 11-11-12 (45 points)

Finishing Position: 5th place in the Eastern Conference and 11th overall.

Post-season: Qualified for MLS Cup Playoffs and advanced to Eastern Conference final, where they lost to Toronto FC.

Montreal Impact was expected to build on their third-place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2015, but failed to do so due to a rather inconsistent season. Despite losing two fewer matches in 2016, the team was guilty of picking up several draws (12) and winning fewer matches (11) which made their MLS Cup Playoff qualification bid a lot harder than it needed it to be.

Mauro Biello’s men scored 49 goals and conceded 53 as compared to 2015’s tally of 48 and 44, ending the season with a negative goal difference (-4). This frail defensive record was a little bit of a worry especially when the team leaked 7 goals over two legs against rivals Toronto FC in the Conference finals.

Transfers Out

  • F – Didier Drogba (12/2/16 – Out of contract)
  • D – Amadou Dia (12/2/16 – Option declined)
  • M – Kyle Bekker (12/9/16 – Option declined, moved to San Francisco Deltas)
  • M – Jeremy Gagnon Lapare (12/9/16 – Option declined, moved to AS Vitre)
  • M – Lucas Ontivero (12/9/16 – End of loan from Galatasaray, moved to Club Universidad de Chile)
  • F – Romario Williams (12/11/16 – Traded away to Atlanta United for conditional draft pick in 2018)
  • D – Donny Toia (12/13/16 – Selected in 2016 expansion draft by Atlanta United)
  • M – Johan Venegas (12/13/16 – Moved to Minnesota United in exchange for Chris Duvall)
  • M – Harry Shipp (12/22/16 – Traded to Seattle Sounders for General Allocation Money (GAM))

Transfers In

  • M – Balou Jean-Yves Tabla (10/20/16 – Homegrown)
  • M – Louis Beland-Goyette (11/1016 – Homegrown)
  • D – Chris Duvall (12/13/16 – Trade from Minnesota United in exchange for Johan Venegas and GAM)
  • F – Nick Depuy (1/13/17 – 2017 MLS SuperDraft)
  • M – Shamit Shome (1/13/17 – 2017 MLS SuperDraft)
  • M – Adrian Arregui (2/22/17 – Loan from Club Atlético Temperley)
  • M – Blerim Dzemaili (Summer 2017 – Loan from Bologna)

Despite the exodus of nine players, including the legendary Didier Drogba from the roster, Montreal Impact seems to have one of the stronger squads of the 2017 MLS season. A dynamic front three of Dominic Oduro on the right, Ignacio Piatti on the left and Matteo Mancosu up top means that there are no issues for Impact when it comes to the final third of the field.

The signing of Adrian Arregui on loan from Argentine club Temperley adds a mixture of youth to the defensive midfield unit of the team which includes three players above 30 in Hernan Bernardello, Marco Donadel and Patrice Bernier. A workhorse who is very good with his feet, the 24-year-old possesses the ability to win the ball back quickly and supply his forwards with a pass, which could make him a very good fit to the team’s playing style.

On the defensive side of things, the inclusion of Chris Duvall looks to be a master-stroke as the team currently lacks a natural right-sided full-back with Hassoun Camara being the only option. The same cannot be said about the left side of Impact’s defense, where recent African Cup of Nations winner Ambroise Oyongo seems to be the only player in his position after the more than capable Donny Toia left for Atlanta United.

Predicting the Starting XI for the opening weekend

It’s unlikely that new loan signing Arregui will get the nod so soon, so the same midfield three who started Montreal Impact’s 5-2 away loss at Toronto FC will be expected to start. The only change in the side is the inclusion of Chris Duvall, who will provide width and pace down the right-hand side.

Predictions for 2017

While necessary reinforcements have been made to keep the team competitive ahead of the new season, one gets a feeling that it might not be enough over the course of the season. Biello seems to be relying on homegrown talent and MLS SuperDraft picks to fill out the roster and provide competition to the starters, which could be a risky proposition especially for the first half of the season.

A lot will be expected from Ignacio Piatti, who finished fourth in the Golden Boot race, and Matteo Mancosu, whose loan deal finishes in the summer, to produce the goods and win matches till the summer at least. After that, the arrival of Blerim Dzemaili should galvanize the team for the rest of the season.

If Montreal Impact players are able to play to their strengths on the counter-attack and keep the opposition’s attacking players at bay, they could just improve on last season’s record. Although it looks like it’s going to be yet another campaign where they’ll be chasing the playoff spots and barely getting there in the end.

Predicted finish: 6th in the Eastern Conference

MLS Cup Playoffs: Conference semi-finals

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