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The Impact's efficiency in front of the net: A talk with Lloyd Barker

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After the expansion draft and a few weeks/days before the start of the season, the attacking sector was a big question mark for the Montreal Impact. It started with Justin Braun and Sanna Nyassi as the main protagonists with Davy Arnaud as the hybrid Striker/Attacking midfielder. Younger players like Miguel Montano were more projects than anything else and Andrew Wenger would only join the team around the month of May (as he finished off his degree at Duke University)

But quickly, the Impact took the international route when Bernardo Corradi joined the team at the beginning of the season. Rumors (some of them were true) had Nicolas Anelka, Alessandro Del Piero, and Marco Di Vaio getting a strong interest from Joey Saputo and Nick De Santis. Looking to make a bang on the Designated Player market, the club never wanted to precipitate into signing a known name just to sign him: but the need was there and the will was at the rendez-vous. Marco Di Vaio's signing seemed to be the perfect match for the team and the club.

Lloyd Barker joins the conversation and shares his insight on the Montreal Impact's attacking sector. Lloyd Barker is a former Montreal Impact forward, CTV/TSN TV Soccer Analyst, Montreal Gazette soccer contributor and Head Coach of the Concordia University Men's Soccer Team.

Lloyd the player, the Coach and the Soccer Aficionado after the jump


Sofiane:
Thank you again Lloyd for sharing some of your knowledge with us about scoring efficiency and more, in the Montreal Impact`s first MLS season. Early in the season, Jesse Marsch hinted that the `` Unit `` mentality has to prevail for any team, especially for an expansion team.

With all the question marks around scoring early in the season, the Impact has scored 42 goals, ranking them 4th in Major League Soccer. Did this unit mentality actually galvanize the team to score goals in ''committee''? Was a rookie head-coach's capacity to lead this team underestimated?


Lloyd:

Most teams that succeed usually have multiple players who score consistently. In the rare case, a team can go far if they have a player who's carrying much of the goal scoring load, but this is very rare. Every team needs to think as a Unit but more so for expansion teams, it's a big requirement in a year where the team will face many challenges. When a team is of the impression that everyone needs to contribute on both ends of the field, it takes the weight off the shoulders of guys that are actually paid to specialize in certain areas of the field. This is smart player managing, and Jesse Marsch should be complimented for doing this as far back as training camp. With that said, I don't think anyone in the club would have believed with the roster they had in January/February that they would be one of MLS' top scoring team. So to be where they are now, it's a major achievement.


Sofiane:
The top 7 scoring players for the Montreal Impact are Patrice Bernier (9 goals) ,Sanna Nyassi (5 goals), Felipe Martins (4 goals), Davy Arnaud (4 goals), Bernado Corradi (4 goals) , Andrew Wenger (4 goals) and Marco Di Vaio (3 goals).

Numbers can be interpreted in many ways but the disparity of scoring takes us back to '' scoring by committee'' but might also point out to the system being played by the Impact.

Losing Bernardo Corradi to injury, Jesse Marsch switched (before the international break) to a 4-2-3-1 against the Colorado Rapids: 15 goals were scored before that game and 27 were scored since.

Can the system/formation explain this boost in the 2nd half of the season?


Lloyd:

The change in the system/formation is a big part of the success but you cannot ignore the change in personnel as well, in terms of contributing factors to the improvement. In a 4-4-2 the Impact was not able to provide quality service to the two front men because they simply did not have enough quality possession in the offensive third of the field. There was also the point of Corradi being very one dimensional as a player. He lacked pace and mobility and in an athletic league, he was a non factor in most games. Add to that the fact that he played with so many different strike partners, who up until his injury, still never got on the same page with any of them. The switch in formation to a 4-2-3-1 meant several players could play to their strengths, which in the process transformed the way the team played. With the 2 holding mids, it translated to more possession, which means more control of games. A free/roaming Felipe has been as effective as any other #10's in MLS this year. Add to that the addition of Marco Di Vaio and an efficient Andrew Wenger, along with a game changing Sanna Nyassi and you could see how this team can cause any team troubles.


Sofiane:
With the 25 offsides in 11 games, Marco Di Vaio is always active looking for that final break through pass. As a striker yourself, how do you see the adjustment of Marco Di Vaio with his teammates and vice-versa as per service and timed runs?


Lloyd:

Initially when Di Vaio arrived you could blame his teammates for not releasing the pass to spring him on goal a bit sooner. Now, you can clearly see that the problem in fact is with Di Vaio alone. He does not possess the blistering pace he once had, so he takes more risks by playing slightly higher up the pitch, along-side the furthest defender. He gets trapped easily by even the least organized defenses.There are still occasions his teammates should attempt to find him with 1 touch, but it's due time Di Vaio recognizes that it's not coming first time -for whatever reason- so he needs to delay his run by a second or two. Fact is, the more he goes offside, the more confusion it causes within the team who now instead of getting a better understanding of his runs, are now totally unaware.

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I would like to thank Lloyd Barker for his intervention and you can follow him for all your soccer analysis, comments and more at @lloydbarker11 .