We all know what kind of an effect former striker Marco Di Vaio had on the field. His approach was very simple, yet lethal, as he made a perfectly timed run to get in behind opponents defensive positioning and then use his patience and skill to bury the ball in the back of the net. His first touch almost never seemed to let him down, and at times even with a bad first touch, he had the skill to recover and make plays for himself or others.
Leading up to the closing of the transfer window , in which the Impact made a strong push for Alberto Gilardino, the club continues to search for the next start to fill Di Vaio's shoes. The void is still there. I believe that during this summer's transfer window, we will see that long awaited signing, if it does not come sooner.
Before I get started, I am in no way saying that by not replacing Di Vaio with another veteran finisher is a good strategy but rather looking at this from a different perspective. I believe that the Impact will have a much more balanced attack this year.
Many experts will say that games are won in the midfield, and that is where I feel the Impact have made a huge improvement in. The additions of Marco Donadel, and Nigel Reo-Coker, who are also solid leaders, will be able to help captain Patrice Bernier break up plays and provide the necessary links with attacking players. Bernier will no longer have to feel the burden of having to do it all himself. It is far too taxing for one player to be expected to do it all, especially in his case at 35 years of age.
With this reinforced midfield, the team will allow attacking players the freedom to venture forward in ways we have not seen before. They know that they have the support of the more defensive minded players to cover them.
We all expect big things from designated player Ignacio Piatti, and surely there is no reason to think he will disappoint. Having a full off-season to train with his teammates will be huge not only for him but for the players around him. He will be able to develop a more fluid chemistry with players such as Justin Mapp, Andres Romero and Dilly Duka, as well as the newly acquired players.
Most likely he will be the catalyst in the attack. He has the kind of game changing skills that will force multiple defenders his way, and he has the skill to either find a way around them or make that slick pass to spring an open teammate. This is something that was sorely lacking last year prior to his arrival.
Prior to the trade that brought Jack Mac to Montreal, the Impact basically had Di Vaio to count on to score goals. I looked at that trade that sent former first overall draft pick Andrew Wenger to Philly in exchange for McInerney as a brilliant move. The club recognized that Wenger just was not going to cut it, and found a reliable striker to back up Marco.
Last year, MacInerney finished 2 goals shy of Di Vaio's total, not great but not bad considering the atrocious season the entire club suffered through. Entering this season, Jack Mac knows he can claim that starting role as his if he can find the consistency that he had in Philly. I see no reason why he can't score 15+ goals this season as he has that kind of talent.
With the addition of speedsters Dominic Oduro and rookie Romario Williams, speed will be another element that the Impact can throw at opponents, that was missing in the past. While it is true we do not know yet how long it will take Romario Williams to get accustomed to MLS play, we can definitely expect Oduro to get his share of goals.
While some compare him to former Impact speedster Sanna Nyassi, I feel that is unfair as Nyassi never had multiple seasons of 10+ goals. Oduro knows he has something to prove being re-united with Klopas, and I do not think it is unrealistic to see him finish with another 10+ goals.
Newcomer Eric Alexander is another addition that I will be looking at to provide more offensive punch to the Impact's lineup, not in goals but in assists. Like Felipe Martins, he was a workhorse in the Red Bulls lineup and I am confident that when he gets his chances on the pitch, he will make the most of them. If Mapp can stay healthy, he too should cross the double digit marks in assists, while Romero should hit double digits in goals.
While it might be hard to predict how many goals each player will get come the end of the 2015 season, there is surely enough talent on this team that fans should finally see a much more balanced attack than we have been able to enjoy over the first three years in MLS. I also believe that Montreal has the talent to also control more of the play rather than rely more on counter attacking.
This team has what it takes to provide fans with an exciting and competitive brand of soccer that was sorely missing last season.