The Montreal Impact limped across the finish line of the 2017 MLS regular season. After losing nine of its last 10 games – including the final match at home to New England on a last-second goal – Montreal is hoping to rebound next season.
But there is reason for optimism north of the border. The Impact, in their first season without striker Didier Drogba, struggled to find an adequate replacement up front. Of the club’s 52 MLS goals, just 16 came from strikers.
Matteo Mancosu and Anthony Jackson-Hamel saw most of the minutes at striker for Montreal in 2017. Jackson-Hamel, at age 24, had a relatively successful transition year looking to become Montreal’s top option at striker in 2018.
Mancosu should stay put as well, providing a solid option of the bench as well as veteran presence. However, Montreal need to add another striker during the offseason to sure up the attack up front.
While it wasn’t the greatest season for Montreal, the Impact were strongest at midfield. Ignacio Piatti and Blerim Dzemaili enjoyed stellar seasons, but the Impact lacked depth behind the dynamic duo.
Patrice Bernier is off to retirement and both Marco Donadel and Hernan Bernardello have aged quickly and are beginning to lose more than a step. However, Montreal features several young, up-and-coming Canadian midfielders which show an impressive development system.
Players like Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, Michael Salazar, and David Choiniere leave reason to be optimistic about the Impact midfield. As the young stars continue to develop next to stars like Piatti, the midfield will form a chemistry unrivaled in MLS.
In the meantime, Montreal will need to go out in the offseason and pickup an experienced midfielder who can play alongside Piatti. Even if Dzemaili stays, Montreal should begin thinking about finding another experienced midfielder with Donadel and Bernardello shifting to the bench.
DEFENDING IN NUMBERS
Montreal ended the season with a negative goal differential, though its defense was not as poor as numbers might reflect.
Although the Impact’s midfield corps was the most promising during the season, the squad’s defense consists of several talented players. Headlining the defense in the middle is Belgian international Laurent Ciman.
Aside from Ciman, the Montreal defense included sparky center-backs Hassoun Camara and Victor Cabrera. Despite the two having issues with discipline, both are smart defenders with a terrific ability to read the play.
On the outside, Ambroise Oyongo has the potential to be one of the top full-backs in MLS if he stays healthy enough to develop and reach his full potential. Chris Duvall, another former New York Red Bulls defender, was another welcome addition for the Impact.
As depth pieces, Shaun Francis, Kyle Fisher, and Daniel Lovitz are all solid options off the bench. The Impact would still need another option on defense, and could look to extend the loan of Romanian youngster Deian Boldor.
One of the biggest reason why the Impact are so solid going forward is the partnership they’ve formed with Bologna. Matteo Mancosu came over from the Italian club last season while Dzemaili and Boldor saw MLS action this year.
Montreal should look to utilize this partnership for the future. With it, Bologna allows Montreal to help develop some younger talent (Boldor) while also offering veteran players a chance at a bounce back year (Dzemaili).
There’s enough young talent for the Impact in midfield, so the draft should focus on adding reinforcements at defense and attack. With a pair of early first round selections, Montreal could look to get a full-back like Cory Brown of Xavier.
Options at forward include players like Afonso Pinheiro of Albany or Jon Gallagher of Notre Dame. Both are dynamic strikers who could add a new dimension to the Impact attack possibly immediately.
The Impact struggled this season. In fact, they could even struggle next season. But the tools are all there for Montreal to begin the rise towards the top of the league. With a strong development system in place along with a major partnership overseas, Montreal is just a few pieces away from being a title contender within the next decade.
All that’s left now for the Impact is executing the plan and trusting the process.