Federico Higuain ,a thorn in the Montreal Impact side, among many in the Eastern Conference - Jamie Sabau
With a lot of movement in the Eastern Conference, the big players might be getting even bigger and the middle of the pack just seems to be tougher to crack.
It is almost Status Quo for the Montreal Impact in player personnel outside recent changes in players not coming back and options retained on most of the team from 2012.
The 2013 roster (as of December 7, 2012)
Goalkeepers: Evan Bush, Troy Perkins
Defenders : Jeb Brovsky, Hassoun Camara, Matteo Ferrari, Dennis Iapichino, Alessandro Nesta, Karl Ouimette, Nelson Rivas, Zarek Valentin
Midfielders : Davy Arnaud, Patrice Bernier, Felipe Martins, Calum Mallace, Lamar Neagle, Sanna Nyassi, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Collen Warner
Forwards : Marco Di Vaio, Andrew Wenger
We have 20 players signed with a MLS contract that will join the club in training camp preparations in mid-January 2013. What is missing in this picture:
(*) Offensive midfielder / playmaker : position/role was filled by Felipe Martins as of mid-season and he did a great.
(*) More depth/numbers at the forward position: Di Vaio's experience and Wenger's talent and energy will not be enough to score all the goals. I will get contradicted by the high number of goals in 2012 (45) but depth and having more options is still required even with Sanna Nyassi being an excellent off the bench option. The positive
(*) Healthy back-line ? I added a question mark to back-line as I am not convinced to see the same CB duo of Ferrari - Nesta play 20+ games together but I might be wrong. Getting another CB would not be a bad thing unless the investment is made on full backs and switch Camara to the midfield or as a back up CB.
I do believe in Nelson Rivas' ability to be an excellent defender and I find him the most complete of all Impact defender (taking into account Nesta's age etc..) but it's hard to rely on him with his injury history.
Time and the transfer market will tell.
(*) Oh ya .... a Head Coach: The Anti-Anglo Saxon model is what the Montreal Impact is going for and it is not a bad thing. Build the team around the club not just around a coach even though the new head coach will have a heavy touch around the team without overhauling the long-term vision of the Impact, and that is key.
Elsewhere in the East
D.C. United: Solid Team, Big Budget Potential
With the departure of Brando Boskovic and the return of Dwayne De Rosario from injury, D.C United is still a strong player in the East. Even if the latest news might send Andy Najar to Europe, although it is more likely that he will be back, the Black & Red did not waste time after the playoffs to get stronger.
No official signings yet, but it was reported that Ben Olsen was already on the move to look for players, specifically a star DP offensive player. Add that full-time top striker to DC squad and that club just got stronger and better for 2013
New York Red Bulls: The Overhaul
New York just got bigger, better, stronger. As much as Joey Saputo is leaning more towards the LA Galaxy / NY Red Bulls MLS model, challenging NY is still going to be hard.
Sporting Kansas City: Sell Smart, Buy Smart
Notable Departures: Roger Espinoza
Columbus Crew: The Higuain Effect
For the Crew, having Federico Higuain play a full MLS season might be the difference maker between making the playoffs or not.
No notable changes at the Fire except the Maicon Santos pick-up from the MLS Re-Entry Draft. Chicago was a late bloomer in the season to make it to the playoffs and has shown great strengths to be a balanced team.
Notable Departures: The free-falling feeling in 2012...hopefully
Notable Arrivals: Kevin Payne , Justin Braun, Danny Calliff and HOPE.
Notable Departures: Calen Carr
Notable Arrivals: Oscar Boniek for a full MLS season!!
Team in re-construction? After shipping back Jeff Parke back home (from Seattle), the Union is taking the safe route of building from the back. Bringing back the ''soul'' of the team with Sebastien Le Toux, the Union have a mix of experience and young players that can only get help from recent signings. Take note of the addition of Conor Casey who is a excellent finisher but has been injury-prone in the past 2-3 years. (depth & options for the Union)
Notable Departures: Benny Feilhaber
After letting loose some salary weight and unmet expectations in Feilhaber, the Revs is still an offensively attractive club but has troubles at the back. The club seems going towards a re-construction phase but things can go fast with the right moves at the right time.
I will admit that it might be premature and early to draw a true picture of the Eastern Conference but bold trades, signings and transfers have changed the Eastern horizon. The Montreal Impact is still working on signing a head coach with a similar philosophical thinking while still being able to win right away. Expectations have gone up as the club parted ways with Jesse Marsch, especially with Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta fully rested.