Between preparing its second season in MLS and integrating a new head coach, many questions will surround the Montreal Impact. Earlier this week, for the first time in 2013, Media and fans attended the first practice of the 2013 MLS season/pre-season. Marco Schällibaum was also running his first practice, getting to know the players, what they can do and not do. That also include working on getting ready physically and mentally for a long season that will start in Cascadia.
Do we dare ask the big question? Is it the only question that matters? Let's ask Jim
Winning On The Road
and how. Fatigue in the last 10-15 minutes of the game, inefficiency in scoring goals, imposing your style are factors that explained the Road Trip Blues of the Impact. Having never used the Expansion excuse in 2012, the excuse cannot be used in 2013.
Already focusing on physical preparation with new Fitness Coach Paolo Pacione, Marco Schӓllibaum has noted the importance of having full capacity especially in the last 10 minutes of the game: " Mental Fatigue comes with Physical Fatigue "
How deep is the team to be fully fit and aware throughout a game (consistently)? What does it take to win on the road?
Formation, Formation, Formation
4-4-2, 4-3-2-1, 3-5-2 ... At the end, formations will reflect your strengths while minimizing the risks around your weaknesses. Imposing a certain style of play might be represented by a theoretical setup on the field but the actual how, who and when will matter the most.
The Impact has shown a good reflex to pass the ball with a good first pass from the central defenders. The ‘'Bermuda Triangle", composed of Collen Warner - Patrice Bernier - Felipe Martins, has shown to be a very dangerous trio in the league. Picking up where they left off is easier after ¾ of a season together in 2012.
Better Offense and Defense from the Sides?
Even if it's early in pre-season, Expect Marco Schӓllibaum to take the handbrake off for the fullbacks/outside backs. A left back himself as a player, Schӓllibaum (and the Impact) will be looking for more offense from the sides. Drafting an offensive player like Blake Smith is part of the process to accomplish that.
Nick De Santis always hinted at wing-type players and Smith fits the bill. Andrea Pisanu adds more depth and options and will be slotted to become a starter on the right side. Add the athletic and soccer-smart Jeb Brovsky and the Impact have definitive options to play with offensive intentions. Dennis Iapichino has not had a lot of playing time and more minutes on the left side also makes him an interesting option.
The formation and intentions will dictate how the fullbacks and ''wingers'' will play but can we expect more movement on the sides?
Better integration of the 2012 MidSeason Signings?
Expectations towards Di Vaio have gotten much bigger after what he has shown. 5 goals in 17 games extrapolate to 10 goals in a full MLS season. With his status, talent, experience, will Di Vaio make his mark among MLS Designated Players? Will he be more efficient and score 15-20 goals?
Nesta: He alternaed between a lot of ''excellent performances'' with a sprinkle but noticeable ''bad''in the 8 games he played and started for the Impact. With over 3 months of rest, can we expect Alessandro Nesta to be fully fit for 30+ games?
Will the defensive core stay healthy?
We cannot predict when the injury bug will hit the team but a rested Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari can only help. With some depth with Hassoun Camara and Zarek Valentin ( both CB/RB options), the defense should be a strong point , even if the contrary is true statistically. The club will not depend on Nelson Rivas as A reliable player for the whole season due to recurring injuries.
Still, there is value in having quality options and managing minutes, egos and expectations will be key to have a strong defensive mind, in a league that is (dubiously) tagged as physical.
What are your Questions for this Pre-Season as the Montreal Impact prepare for March 2nd?