Defense is the area that should not have worried the Montreal Impact later in the 2012 season. But conceding 51 goals in a season will not permit any playoffs aspirations and the defense is not to be solely blamed for that.
Hypothesis: 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and variants
Even if it seemed sexy and interesting when the Montreal Impact signed Alessandro Nesta, going with a 3-5-2 variant as a full-time formation seems more of a risk than anything else. With not enough time to implement it, Marco Schällibaum is more of a student of the 4-4-2 and its variants, something that was noted during training camp.
Neither Age nor injury history of the center backs are on the side of going with the 3-5-2 but some depth will help the club. With a line of 4 defenders, getting more from the outside backs is one of the improvements the club has tagged since coming to the MLS.
On the right side, it is Hassoun Camara's job to lose. The versatile frenchman (CMF,CB and RB) has combined physical presence, nice passing and initiatives to go up the field for offensive support. Under Marco Schällibaum who wants more from the sides, we do expect to see Camara be more involved with his right midfielder.
The unsung hero of 2012 was and still is Jeb Brovsky. The midfielder converted to right back took over the left back spot in 2012. I will still tag him as a right back as I don't see the Impact not go with a left-footed player to patrol the left side. Whether, Brovsky will be a depth/bench player or playing on a regular basis, his athleticism , good soccer IQ and passion will make him an option for the head coach every game.
On the left side, Iapichino did not play enough minutes to be able to fully assess him. Someone that knows him well from his time in Switzerland is the new head coach, who coached him at FC Lugano in 2010-2011. He did not show the best defensive instincts but did not play a lot. Very eager to go up the field, he will be very valuable in the Impact's philosophy to get more offense from the sides.
If Maxime Tissot makes the club (more likely to be Wandrille Lefevre to join the club from the Academy), it would be an excellent learning experience for the young canadian left back, who has excellent technical qualities to learn with the pro team.
The club's first pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Blake Smith, is an option as a left back as he might be even better on longer distances. Until then, let's tag him as a left midfielder with a strong option to be the team's left back.
The center back line will have 6 players to choose from with a natural duo rising naturally to the top. Nesta and Ferrari should and will be the starting CB duo for Montreal . Both combine experience, physical presence and a few games playing together in MLS. Nesta' age and injury history is an x-factor to take into account hence having Camara and Valentin as an option is excellent news for the club.
I will not really consider Nelson Rivas in the equation yet and it hurts me. The Colombian defender has shown great things when he played..when he played. It will be very hard to make a game plan around the defender who is still rehabbing a knee injury, after season ending knee surgery in 2012. Hassoun Camara offers that insurance policy to fill in when need at CB. Though, the Impact might even play a lopsided 4-X-X with a bigger tendency to play on the left with the right side being more conservative. This will also depend on the right midfielder's offensive intentions (Davy Arnaud or Andrea Pisanu) and how much coverage and help is needed.
One question mark around the central defense would be its speed. Seeing the club playing deep in its zone might be a sign of compensating its lack of top speed to cover the fast strikers of MLS. Positioning will be key but when you look back, too many late goals were scored on the Impact in the box so fighting fatigue (physical and mental) and getting better in its zone will also be important.
|Karl W. Ouimette
|Blake Smith/Jeb Brovsky
|Zarek Valentin (option)
|Hassoun Camara (option)