2013 Montreal Impact Preview: Higher Expectations but Watch Out for The Sophomore Slump

Richard Wolowicz

This is the text that will either haunt me and make lose any credibility or shower me in ''street cred'' and engrave my legendary status forever. Let's Talk 2013 Montreal Impact Preview.

Is 2013 The Year Of The Impact?

Montreal Impact

2012 record: 12-16-6

Key additions: Andrea Pisanu, Andres Romero, Marco Schällibaum (head coach)

Key losses: Jesse Marsch , Lamar Neagle ... relatively speaking.

Projected starting XI: Troy Perkins; Jeb Brovsky, Alessandro Nesta, Matteo Ferrari, Hassoun Camara; Justin Mapp, Patrice Bernier, Davy Arnaud, Felipe Martins,Andrea Pisanu ; Marco Di Vaio

Bold prediction: 5th place in the Eastern Conference. The Eastern Conference has gotten stronger as literally every team has made some kind of major change to get better or steer the ship. Still Montreal can sneak in with lessons learned in 2012.

Biggest fear: Injuries to plague the depth at the back and the shallow pool of strikers up front (Di Vaio)

2 Wins, 12 Losses , 3 Draws. That was the Impact's away record during the 2012 MLS season and that will not cut it to even hope for a playoff spot. With 5 wins in a row between July 28th and August 25th, the 2012 expansion club has shown an ability to win and win big games. Montreal finished the last five games of the season with a 0-3-2 record.

On the positive side, the team is unchanged in term of core players and chemistry. Even with a new head coach with his own new ideas, having the entire core back is important to start off 2013. Even better news, Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta have had time to rest in the off-season and get ready for training camp. Both Romans (from Rome) will definitively need to be on top of their games right off the start of the season.

The defence was the best asset of the club on paper but the club still conceded 51 goals. This is not to blame the 4-man back line but Marco Schällibaum will be looking to give the Impact a more complete game. This will involve more stability and input on both sides of the field from his outside backs/full backs.

With Troy Perkins starting the season, the defensive side for Montreal could be very strong and hard to beat. The Ohio-native has experience with 2nd year MLS teams as he played for the Portland Timbers in 2011 and 2012 (until traded to Montreal for Donovan Ricketts). That experience could help steer this team as he will establish himself as a leader on this team. Hassoun Camara's versatile positioning will make him important for Schällibaum's plans and options. Jeb Brovsky will battle Dennis Iapichino for the left back starting position but the Colorado-native seems to have the advantage.

The midfield has been a positive sector for Montreal with the 2 players that have had a DP impact on the club. Patrice Bernier and Felipe Martins have been the '' Olive and Tom '' duo for the Impact. Add Collen Warner to the mix and the Bermuda Triangle was created. Now, between Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp garnering frustration from fans, a shift in positioning and coaching might help both. The arrival of Andrea Pisanu should put Arnaud in the central midfield position and Mapp will not start the season injured like he did in 2012.

Up front, it's basically all about Marco Di Vaio , feeding him the ball and having high expectations over a full season. The ex-Serie A striker has shown more than enough in 2012 to have no excuses to deliver goals. Outside any excuses of blaming Justin Mapp or the team not playing fast enough for him and more, Di Vaio is rested and ready for a full MLS season. His talent as a striker is undeniable and the midfield will play around and for him. With a more complete game on the sides and the versatility of both Pisanu and Felipe, generating more offense from different areas will be key to the success of the club.

Off the bench talented players like Andrew Wenger and Sanna Nyassi will definitively offer added value for the team.

What will happen in 2013? March is already a difficult month with back to back games in Cascadia ( The Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers). We would hope that the positive aspects of 2012 can carry over in 2013 and the Impact are not too predictable. Other teams have been warned now, other teams have gotten better on paper but the Impact can still sneak into the playoffs.

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