We prematurely look at the Montreal Impact midfield as the club is less than 30 days away from opening the 2013 season against the Seattle Sounders.
What was the strong-hold of the team in 2012 , the midfield is still the heart and brain on the field. What took a while to come together , the chemistry between key Impact players definitively and permanently shaped the identity of this club. Or should we say cemented the club's philosophy and style of play it wanted to impose in Major League Soccer.
The key game that everyone identified for the metamorphosis of the club was the 3-2 loss against the Colorado Rapids on May 26th 2012. It was the first time that Felipe Martins, Patrice Bernier and Collen Warner were all placed together on the pitch and they lived happily ever after....
The chemistry between Martins, Bernier and Warner made that trio the custodians of the Impact's style and game throughout the season. As much as Bernier and Warner seem more alike in style and positioning, Bernier's experience and offensive instincts gives the Brossard-native an offensive freedom. That same freedom gives more depth to the midfield as a whole and causing issues to opposing teams.
Talking of freedom, Felipe`s higher positioning since " the Colorado Genesis " fully utilized the Brazilian skill-set and soccer IQ. As per Warner, the ex-Real Salt Lake midfielder is more than just a filler as he is much more technical than he is given credit for and can fill different roles in the central midfield.
Getting more offense on the sides was and still is an area of improvement for Montreal. Beyond the offensive side, the bigger effort will come in synchronizing the movement of the whole team on both sides of the pitch. Both left and right ''lanes'' will be challenged by head coach Marco Schällibaum to offer a more complete game. It will start from the left back or the left midfielder for example (and the right also) but both will need to play more in sync and offer more solutions to the offensive build-up.
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Big Hairy Audacious Goal --> a goal that is audacious, likely to be externally questionable, but not internally regarded as impossible. (wikipedia)
The scary goal of playing a more complete game as an offensive and defensive unit will be key to keep the delicate balance for any team. The midfield will be that relay between defense and offense with players having those skills in the center of the pitch.
Andrea Pisanu's arrival and Blake Smith potential explosiveness might be the boost the club need to build on. Davy Arnaud is obviously intense and a runner but has shown to be one-dimensional as a right midfielder. I still feel he can bring added value within a more organized structure and he does bring size and some speed. But will he stay with the club throughout the 2013 season?
Justin Mapp is one of the few left-footed player on the club, which makes him a rare commodity. Criticism around his fitness level and intensity have not been all false but has shown to be very technical with smart soccer IQ, well not as high as Marco Di Vaio would have liked (growing pains).
Nota Bene: I will consider Sanna Nyassi as a forward even though he can fill in as a side midfielder/winger. Stay tuned for Premature Pre-Season Depth, The Forward Edition.
Even if not necessarily deep in experience, the midfield will eventually need to rely on younger hungry players like Callum Mallace and Wandrille Lefevre (U21 Academy player). Younger Academy players like Zakaria Messoudi might also force the club's hand to give him a pro contract sooner than later. Alongside Wandrille Lefevre, both Academy products could learn a lot being among the pros over a more prolonged period.
Another player looking for playing time is Sinisa Ubiparipovic. The very technical offensive midfielder's MLS career has never lifted off on par with his potential. He could be relied upon to give more minutes with the club in 2013. In a more ''European'' style ( ps. I hate that term), Ubiparipovic's skill set and style might fit the new Impact philosophy, or at least get back to its roots.
The X-factor that might change the cards would be 2013 first round pick Blake Smith who was picked for his many qualities including speed, passing skills and awareness on the sides. Another 2013 MLS Draftee is Fernando Monge as he will be also joining the club in Florida for the pre-season tournament. The UCLA Bruin might be the jackpot that the Impact hoping he becomes. But at this point, the club is in winning mode so it is not clear where he will fit in a 18-man roster.
When you look at the depth chart below, you can see that Blake Smith has a chance to prove himself and have an immediate impact on the field. The right side is older but with experience so do expect the club to continue looking for offensive input via a right winger for the present and the future.
Patrick Leduc of RDS and La Presse also wants a right winger for the team
@sofiane_benzaza ailier droit— Patrick Leduc (@patleduc15) February 4, 2013
|Left Midfield||Center Midfield||Center Midfield||Left Midfield|
|Justin Mapp||Felipe Martins||Patrice Bernier||Davy Arnaud|
|Blake Smith||Collen Warner||Callum Mallace||Andrea Pisanu|
|Wandrille Lefevre||Sinisa Ubiparipovic|
|Zakaria Messoudi||Fernando Monge|