The Italian Job, Montreal style, part 2: Who stays, who goes

Richard Wolowicz

As the Montreal Impact head into their first MLS off season, lots of questions remain as to who will come back to be part of the 2013 edition of the squad. Before any speculation can be made, a new manager needs to be selected

Since I believe that the new manager will be an Italian who will try to introduce a more European style of play, it is clear that not every player from last year's edition will be able to make the cut. As a fan of Serie A and all other European Soccer, I'd like to think that I have a good idea of what an Italian manager might look for in his players. Unfortunately for the new bench boss, the team will not be made up completely of European players so he will be forced to try and teach the new style to a large part of next year's squad.

As mentioned in my previous article, logic would suggest that it is easier to teach 4-5 Italians to play a North American style rather than teaching 20 North Americans to play a Euro style but ‘In Joey and Nick we trust'! Only time will tell if their gamble will pay off.

I examined last year's roster to see how a new manager would evaluate the players currently at his disposal.

Goalkeepers

Troy Perkins

Whoever the manager is, it should not prevent Perkins from coming back as the starting goalkeeper. His strong play after his arrival from Portland pretty much assures him the number one position unless the new manager decides to declare a true open competition for role.

Evan Bush

Having Bush as a second goalkeeper is any manager's dream, however, the main question for Evan... is he willing to spend another season on the bench? Barring a horrible preseason or injury from Perkins, Bush should find himself starting the season as number 2. He is deserving of chance to play regularly and the front office may have no choice but to deal him so that he can get a real opportunity. Can the new boss convince him to stay?

Defense:

Zarek Valentin

There are three potential issues hindering Captain Oreo's return to the Impact:

1. Positional play

Whether the new manager plays with 3 or 4 man defense, the fullbacks will be asked to push the ball forward and support the attack. In his limited playing time with the Impact, we have not seen much of this. If he does come back, he will have to prove that he can shuttle his way back and forth for a full 90 minutes without hanging his teammates out to dry.

2. Attitude

As the season went on, Zarek's playing time virtually disappeared. Although he was hampered by an injury throughout some of the year, he didn't win back Jesse Marsch's trust. There were some whispers that Valentin landed in Marsch's doghouse because his ‘goofy, eccentric' attitude was not appreciated by the no-nonsense, all business bench boss. I believe that the front office may share the same opinion as the former bench boss as he was given very limited playing time in Italy.

3. Salary

Zarek's salary has 6 digits before the decimal point. That would mean that he would be a very expensive backup. In a salary cap world, especially considering all the European players that the Impact would like to bring in, the front office will have to save wherever it can.

Despite all this, there is no doubting that Valentin is an extremely talented young man. He is a fan favorite and I know that all the Impact faithful, myself included, would love to see him in Impact blue next season, logging plenty of minutes. His biggest competition will be Dennis Iapichino.

Dennis Iapichino

Iapichino is the most curious case of this defensive group. His play last season got mixed reviews. Perhaps a new system by a Euro manager is just what he needs to excel in North America. The front office love his potential and he could be that full back that Euro managers love if he can show that he is that prototypical 2 way fullback. It will be an interesting training camp battle between him and Valentin. If he wins, it may spell the end of Valentin's time in Montreal.

Jeb Brovsky

Brovsky is a lock to return next season. He is a manager's dream (doesn't matter if that manager is North American, European or from Mars). He is safe with the ball. He plays at full speed for the whole 90 minutes. He has also proven that he can play in a 3-5-2 as a wing option and, in case of emergency, fill in at center back (CB). Even with a hefty pay raise (from his approx. $30,000.00 salary), Jeb will be back and will play a pivotal role for the club during the next campaign.

Nelson Rivas

When he is on the field, he is a force to be reckoned with. The operative word in that last sentence is ‘WHEN'. Between injuries and his 3 game suspension, his absence on the field was felt far too often. It is tough to build chemistry with a player who can blow a tire or a gasket at any given time. His saving grace is that when he is on the field, he is great at what he does. He will be back but if the injury issues continue, one has to wonder if the next manager will tolerate his week to week status. Although it will probably never happen, a best case scenario would be rotating games between him, Ferrari and Nesta which would see each player play 2 out of 3 games to ensure ample rest and rehab.

Matteo Ferrari

Not much to say here. Matteo is the anchor of the defense. As long as he can remain healthy, he is one of the first names on the starting XI for every game.

Alessandro Nesta

Will he be just a player? A player-manager? Can his knees hold up? A few questions are swirling around the defensive legend but one thing is certain, if healthy, he will be on the field. As mentioned with Rivas, a rotation where Nesta would play 2 out of 3 games would be ideal yet unlikely. There is too much pride in these great players to admit that they need a game off every now and then. Will they be right or will the Impact be forced to play some games without their defensive stalwarts because of that same pride? Only time will tell.

Karl W Ouimette

The future star centre back of this team will continue his apprenticeship under Nesta, Rivas and Ferrari as he prepares to one day take over and be a dominate force in the heart of the Impact defense.

Midfield:

Patrice Bernier

No surprise here, Bernier will be an automatic starter, leader and key contributor. His experience overseas will help him adapt to whatever system the new manager decides to use.

Hassoun Camara

The big question is whether or not Camara will be sold. Although he has proven that he belongs in the starting XI and the fact that he could easily adapt to a Euro coach's system, the money he could bring in on a transfer (which is then used as allocation money) may be too tempting to turn down. A force if he stays, provides much salary cap relief if he goes.

Felipe Martins

Starter. Star player. Will only continue to improve under a Euro coach. Future designated player.

Calum Mallace

Mallace has a great future ahead of him in Montreal. Coming off a rookie year where he showed some great flashes in a very limited amount of playing time, he may struggle to learn a European system at first but he is tough and could become a key player off the bench throughout the season.

Justin Mapp

A European manager will spell the end of Justin Mapp's career in Montreal. As often seen with Bernardo Corradi and Marco Di Vaio, Justin has struggled to be on the same page with the Italian forwards. If the rumors are true and another Italian striker is brought in (Luca Toni?), patience will not be a virtue with the front office. Add in his salary and his inability to last 90 minutes, he is a prime candidate for relocation.

Lamar Neagle

Neagle had an up and down season. Obviously shaken by the trade that brought him to Montreal from Seattle, he took a while to settle in. As the season went on, he began to show just what he could do on the field. Lamar will have to impress from the start of training camp.

Sanna Nyassi

Nyassi is the wildcard. As a starter, his results were mixed. When used as a late game substitute, his great speed allowed him to dominate tired defenses and create some great scoring chances for the Impact. In order to be a starter under a new manager, he needs to improve his discipline, endurance, vision and ball distribution.

Sinisa Ubiparipovic

Sinisa is the kind of soldier that every manager loves. He works hard at every practice. He will accept whatever role you give him. When you call his number, he will give everything he has on the field. Whether or not he returns will depend on if he is ready to accept a bench role once again or whether he'd like to explore another opportunity to get more playing time.

Collen Warner

A young, solid 2-way midfielder, Warner really made a name for himself in his first season in Montreal. Despite being a key player for the team during the last season, his role is yet to be defined for the upcoming year. He may lose his starting spot if a creative, offensive, European midfielder is brought in. As a starter or not, with the long and tough schedule that makes up an MLS season, it's comforting for any manager to have a guy like Warner to rely on.

Davy Arnaud

He is the Captain. He is a warrior. He may also be the first one to lose his spot next season. Will a new manager ask him to give up the armband so that he can select an Italian Captain?

Arnaud played almost every position last season. Loved by most fans, hated by others, there is no denying that he gave it is all, game in and game out. The only problem is that Arnaud doesn't fit in to that possession style game play that a Euro manager would want to instill. If he does stay in Montreal, it would more than likely be as a late game, defensive midfield replacement. No longer has the speed to play as a second forward. Will he want to stay if he is no longer captain?


Forwards:

Bernardo Corradi

Will he come back? How is his health? Will his wife allow him to come back? No one really knows. If he does come back, it would more than likely be as a role player off the bench. Despite his intelligence on the field, he lacks the speed to be a constant threat. I am not sure that he would return to North America if he isn't guaranteed a key role.

Marco Di Vaio

Star forward. Starter. Every game. Period.

Next Captain?

Andrew Wenger

Will he finally get his shot as a starter or will he take another bench role while another forward is brought in from Europe? Either way, the new manager and front office will have to take the training wheels off at some point and see what he can do. He would be great as a partner to Di Vaio or even as part of a 3 forward attack... as long as he gets his chance.

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