After a disappointing 2014 MLS season, everyone around the league expected to see big changes in Montreal. As expected, the changes came hard and fast over an off-season that saw a lot of pressure on Impact management including Joey Saputo, Nick De Santis, and Frank Klopas.
Arguably, the biggest and most significant changes came at the end of January 2015 when the Impact finalized a flurry of deals. The primary deal in question here is the one that saw an Impact stalwart since its inaugural season, Felipe, moved to NYRB. The trade breaks down like this:
(D) Ambroise Oyongo
(CM) Eric Alexander
International Roster Spot
#1 Spot in Allocation Order
It is incredibly important here to consider the intangible assets trading hands. The International Roster Spot, the Allocation Money, as well as the top spot in the Allocation Order are all of the utmost importance to the trade as a whole.
At the end of the preceding season (2014), Montreal was awarded the top spot in the Allocation order much in the same way teams with the worst record are given the opportunity to draft in the first position at the SuperDraft.
So, similar to draft orders in most North American sports leagues, because Montreal finished with the worst record in MLS in 2014, they now had first dibs on any USMNT players or returning MLS players.
Montreal already held this asset prior to the 2012 season - their inaugural season. They used it to select forward Eddie Johnson and then flipped him to Seattle for Lamar Neagle and Mike Fucito. What this experience taught Montrealers was that selecting a player via the Allocation Order was of little value if the player did not want to play for the team selecting him.
As was the case with Johnson, who never intended to play for Montreal. Thus, Montreal tried to maximize their asset and essentially traded the top spot in the Allocation Order for Neagle and Fucito.
Fast forward to January 2015 where Montreal once again held the coveted spot. Reports indicated that both NYRB and the LA Galaxy were both interested in acquiring Sacha Kljestan who had previously played in Belgium. It appeared as though whichever of the two teams held a higher position in the Allocation Order would get him.
Now, the Impact held an asset that was much more valuable to other teams than it was to them because they had no interest in any USMNT or returning MLS players (nor did these players have any interest in Montreal). LA traded up in the order but NYRB swooped in and acquired the top spot from Montreal, leaving LA fans to feel as though their previous trade was poorly executed.
Therefore, we might now re-consider Montreal`s overall cost to acquire Oyongo, Alexander, Allocation Money, and an International Roster Spot to be: Felipe and an asset they were never going to use. Moreover, Montreal was going to be heading into a season with a log-jam in the central midfield.
The likes of Marco Donadel, Patrice Bernier, Nigel Reo-Coker, Calum Mallace, Dilly Duka, Ignacio Piatti, and now Eric Alexander would all be competing with Felipe for playing time. This made Felipe, his International Roster Spot, and his somewhat chunky salary expendable.
Now that we've analyzed what Montreal gave up in the trade, let's take a look at what came back.
Despite an uncomfortable beginning to his time in Montreal, Ambroise Oyongo has played admirably as a fullback and is good at getting forward without sacrificing defensive positioning.
Montreal`s extended CONCACAF run delayed many of their regular season games, which made it so that Oyongo did not miss as many games as would have otherwise been the case. Along with Oyongo came an International Roster Spot which we can argue was used on him.
To analyze the play of Eric Alexander is not as simple because of his lack of playing time. In his few appearances he has been "good enough". Based on all accounts, Alexander is a good teammate and a versatile option off the bench. His lack of playing time may be proof of the aforementioned "log-jam" that existed in the central midfield before the season began.
Last but not least, the Allocation Money received from NYRB is likely the forgotten piece to the puzzle, yet, in my opinion, the most important. I say this because within the time frame that Montreal received this Allocation Money, the Impact agreed on a contract with exceptional centre-back Laurent Ciman just prior to the trade and traded for Dominic Oduro immediately after.
Ciman's salary is above the threshold that would force his contract to be considered that of a DP, but Allocation Money was used to buy it down far enough so that the DP slot would remain available for future moves. Perhaps Montreal knew they would be receiving Allocation Money from NYRB and therefore committed it to Ciman's contract proactively.
Similarly, Oduro was acquired from Toronto FC for Allocation Money. Because MLS policy dictates that much of the financial information is not revealed (and that some of the rules seem to be made as we go), we cannot say for sure, but we can speculate that the Allocation Money received from NYRB was used to acquire Ciman at a lower cap hit and/or acquire Oduro.
It is not necessary to argue Ciman's worth, as it is obvious. But it may be necessary to for Oduro. Those who say Oduro's first and final touches are below the quality of what is expected from a striker are correct to say so.
But we cannot ignore the fact that at the time of the writing of this article, he is tied for first in goals on the team with Ignacio Piatti (who takes penalty kicks, may I add). Oduro was also the go-to man when Cameron Porter was injured and Jack McInerney fell out of favor with Frank Klopas. He also hurt Montreal on a semi-regular basis when he played for Columbus. He works hard, he appears to be a positive presence on the field, and he took to Montreal very quickly. He may not be perfect, but he is ours.
Therefore, we can, in retrospect, view the complete trade as...
(D) Ambroise Oyongo (without the need to expend an International Roster Slot)
(CM) Eric Alexander
(D) Laurent Ciman without the need to use a DP spot and/or (F) Dominic Oduro
An asset that had to be traded when its value was high
To be fair, this would be viewing the trade in the most positive light possible, but that does not mean it is incorrect to do so. It is plausible to claim that this one trade changed the face of the team in one week in January. A team that went from dead last in 2014 to holding onto a playoff spot with games in hand in 2015.