Good news for fans of the Montreal Impact! Although training camp kicks off this Friday at the Olympic Stadium, it appears as though Frank Klopas and company are still looking to tweak the line up. Now it is purely rumour at this stage but reports surfaced yesterday afternoon that the New York Red Bulls could be trying to work out a deal with the Impact that would send Felipe Martins to the Big Apple, along with the top spot in the allocation order in exchange for Cameroonian defender Ambroise Oyongo.
Earlier this off-season, Klopas found a way to solidify the middle of the pitch and now over the last couple of weeks, his focus has clearly turned to the defensive core. He has brought in Bakary Soumare and Victor Cabrera to shore up the defence and it is expected that Belgian international, Laurent Ciman, a central defender, who plays for Standard Liege, is set to become the team's second designated player.
Former Impact boss, Jesse Marsch, saw first hand what Felipe can offer back in 2012, watching him have a break out year. He started all 30 games, collecting 4 goals and 10 assists, in 2,652 minutes. Since that first year, while still finding ways to contribute, Felipe has not been as convincing. His point totals are still respectable but it appears that he has not been able to take his game to the next level.
This may not be totally his fault as he has been moved around on the pitch countless times since Marsch was in charge, by both Klopas and Marco Schallibaum, as they tried to find the ideal spot for Felipe in their respective formations. If this rumor is true, it is possible Marsch is willing to roll the dice with Felipe to see if he can get more out of him that he has been producing with the Impact. It is also a way for the NYRB to get that coveted #1 spot in the allocation process, which the Impact currently hold, and being put in a prime position to potentially land U.S international Sacha Kljestan.
From a Montreal perspective, the team now has an abundance of midfielders at their disposal. Klopas might just be tempted enough to let Felipe go in order to bring in a quality defender to fill that final left back spot that has been somewhat of a revolving door.
Clearly, Krol is not the answer, and while Danny Toia may turn out to be a solid and reliable option for Klopas, there is so much riding on that home and away CCL series with Pachuca. There may not be enough time for a wait and see attitude.
Aside from that, the allocation spot means very little to the Impact as it is used to get U.S internationals back on home soil, so if the Impact must give that up to get Oyongo, the pick is not a big loss.
What can Oyongo bring to the table?
At 5' 9" and 150lbs, he is definitively not an imposing defender but is very quick on his feet, can create opportunities in the offensive zone and he is also pretty responsible defensively. A native of Cameroon, the 23 year old, is currently representing his country in the AFCON being held in Equatorial Guinea.
He managed to get on the score sheet scoring the equalizing goal for his country versus Mali yesterday. It definitely shows his willingness to attack. During last seasons MLS campaign he featured in 13 matches 11 as a starter, where he collected 3 assists. In the Red Bulls playoff run he started 2 of the 5 matches collecting an assist.
As with all potential transactions, there is definitely some risk involved to make a deal of this style. The Impact would be giving up on a young player in Felipe, who has showed a lot of promise, during his three years in MLS. Like him or not, he has proven to be a reliable member of the team and although he has moved around on the pitch the coaches have always seemed to find a spot to put him in.
On the flip side, the Impact would be getting a player that appears to have a lot of potential, and able to fill one of the remaining weak spots on the field. However, if there are people who feel Toia is not battle tested enough (24 starts and 27 appearances with a total of 2,240 minutes in 2014) and keep in mind Oyongo has played less than half of that.
Another thing to keep in mind, while we all expect Ignacio Piatti and Justin Mapp to be fully fit to start the season, what happens if one of them is not, or collects an injury? Already short on attackers, is the team deep enough, without Felipe?
Since joining the Impact in 2012 he has consistently been one of the top minute-getters on the team. Are the Montreal Impact willing to see Ambroise Oyongo travel around the world to compete with his native Cameroun? He left the Red Bulls during the playoffs and had to come back into their lineup on short rest, not as sharp as he probably would have been had he stayed. These are all questions that need will need to be answered.
My take on all of this, I would be tempted to gamble and swap Felipe for Oyongo as a straight up swap, but not if it included the allocation spot. I understand that you need to give up quality to get quality back, but for me Felipe is more valuable than a relatively unproven player in Oyongo.
His value may go a up little due to his current form at the AFCON but is it enough to warrant both a proven player in Felipe and the allocation spot. Yes, Oyongo is showing promise but so did Felipe in his first year and we are still waiting to see him take it to the next level.
Also I think that when the time comes for teams to start lining up for whichever U.S. player is coming back to the league the Impact can benefit and come out on top in a bidding war.