Is it too early for that kind of headline? I guess it depends on who you talk to! While many fans have managed their expectations and understand that it will take a few games to find a consistent rhythm, others have started calling for changes and losing hope completely. In a city with a rich history of success (24 Stanley Cups for Habs and the Alouettes are perennial Grey Cup contenders), fans are still in an adjustment period as this is our first expansion team in a LONG time!
Montreal didn't look out of their league against the Whitecaps. In my opinion, first game jitters are to blame on the first goal. The second was caused due to a bad turnover by Justin Mapp and a couple of rookie-style mistakes. Throughout the entire game, the Impact managed to keep pace with identical possession and pass completion rates.
The obvious work needs to come on the offensive side of the ball. Justin Mapp needs to remain on the bench. His lack of pace, creativity, toughness mixed in with careless turnovers has set this team back. Unfortunately, he hasn't shown much throughout the entire training camp and his absence during the pre-season tournament has only worked against him.
Sanna Nyassi, with his ‘Impact man of the match' performance against Vancouver, deserves a starting position on the left wing against the Fire. He is not a forward. On the wing, he is allowed more freedom to create and add pressure to the opposing defense. Patrice Bernier and Felipe Martins need to make quicker decisions to open up room for each other as they get used to the pace of the MLS.
Mike Fucito, who has often been credited as a key piece to Fredy Montero's success in Seattle, should get his turn with the mission of doing the dirty work up top. Although a full 90 minutes of a Fucito/Wenger partnership would be ideal for pace and creativity purposes, Andrew Wenger's school schedule may harm his ability to start a game due to lack of practice. Should this be the case, Fucito's partner will either be Justin Braun or Bernardo Corradi (should he be signed by the team this week). Both Braund and Corradi need to be handled the same way. They are forwards who are most dangerous in the last 20 yards and who absolutely need good service. Don't count on them to double back to support the defense. They're only worry should be getting open, receiving the ball and firing it every chance they get. That's it.
Now, here comes the great news... The Montreal Impact are in third place!!
The Western conference dominated the Eastern conference this past weekend so the Impact are still very much in the playoff hunt! Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo now share the conference lead with opening day wins while the Columbus Crew, DC United, the NY Red Bulls, the New England Revolution and the Montreal Impact lost. The inactive teams were the Chicago Fire and Toronto FC. The Philadelphia Union plays their first game Monday night.
The ‘experts' have all rated the East has the weaker conference and, as an expansion side, Montreal could certainly take advantage of the situation.
With a good week of practice, game film study and adjustments, the Impact should be ready to battle Chicago at the Big O, in front of a (hopefully) record crown of cheering, passionate Impact fans!
Get your tickets now and see you on Saturday!