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Montreal Impact: Getting to know Ambroise Oyongo and Eric Alexander

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The Impact made a move with the New York Red Bulls this week. They traded Felipe for Eric Alexander and Ambroise Oyongo. I've reach out to Lester Townsend of Once a Metro to know more about the two players.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

1-First of all what are your thoughts on the trade?

It’s hard to know what to think about the trade. My first thought was, "Oh, I like both of those players. This really sucks and the Red Bulls got robbed." However, after an hour or two, I started to come around to it more. For me, it depends what the Red Bulls do with the top allocation spot. If the Red Bulls sign Kljestan, then I suppose it works out for both teams. If they don’t, then they gave away two extremely versatile starters for one starter. Allocation money and international spots get passed around like the common cold in a kindergarten class, so you can’t really make any judgments on either of those things.

2-How would you describe Ambroise Oyongo the player (strengths and weaknesses) and the man?

Ambroise Oyongo is a creative, fast player who is capable of putting a 60 yard pass on a dime. He works hard and isn’t afraid to get stuck in. Almost purely one footed, but he had a fluke assist with his right foot last season (look up the video, it’s pretty great). He can get turned around on defense and sometimes gets too fancy in the back, but that’s rare. Oyongo has a knack for bombing up the side of the field and getting into the box undetected. He’ll find himself open a lot simply because teams weren’t expecting him to get up the field so quickly. He doesn’t shoot from distance and is always looking to pass first. He can also jump through the roof even if he’s not much of a ball winner. Oyongo played left back and left mid for the Red Bulls, but he is the starting right back for the Cameroonian national team.

As far as Oyongo "the man," he’s a good teammate who listened to the veterans and didn’t react negatively to not playing for months at the beginning of the season, being benched, and being asked to play out of position. He picked up English very quickly and maintains a good social media presence.

3-How would you describe Eric Alexander the player (strengths and weaknesses) and the man  ?

Eric Alexander is versatile and capable of playing any position in the midfield. He has a creative streak and has rare glimpses of true brilliance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4wPj-5kwmI). However, he is at his best when he plays within himself and keeps things simple. He will make strong challenges on defense and get involved on the counter attack. He seemed to be restricted a bit by Thierry Henry’s presence and would constantly force the ball to him instead of making the smarter pass. Alexander’s stamina is great, but his speed is in the lower middle-range for a professional player. Red Bulls fans were down on him because Petke forced Alexander into the lineup a lot (especially on the wing), but you can’t argue with his 9 assists in 2014. He played all 34 games in both 2013 and 2014. He doesn’t shoot enough and at times fans will be yelling at him about this.

Alexander has a dry sense of humor, but is great when interacting with fans. He showed up at many fan events and did a great Q&A on Reddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/MLS/comments/2jfkrk/im_eric_alexander_midfielder_for_the_new_york_red/).

4-Oyongo is a natural LB but at what position is Alexander the most effective?

Alexander’s most effective as an 8/box-to-box or as an alternating 6/defensive midfielder in a 4-2-3-1. He paired with Dax McCarty very well at defensive mid. Alexander can play on the wing, but he doesn’t have enough speed to beat defenders or get up and down the field. He tends to get marginalized on teams that play a 4-4-2 because he’s too much of a tweener to play as an out-and-out attacking midfielder or defensive midfielder. Alexander’s a great supplementary player who compliments his central midfield partners well. He’s a great connection between the defense and the offense and tends not to make frivolous passes. His best fit is in a 4-3-3/4-5-1/4-2-3-1 in the 6/8 role paired with a defensive midfielder more focused on ball winning.

I can’t reiterate this enough: he can play the wing and he can play central midfielder in a 4-4-2, but you really don’t want him to do that. He needs to be paired with two central midfielders and can’t be expected to play as a 10 or a lone 6.

5-Where do you see Felipe in the NYRB squad?

Felipe might be the attacking midfielder this team has been looking for since Amado Guevara. Marsch might be tempted to play Felipe at left mid due to the team’s gaping hole in the lineup there, but I’ve been told he doesn’t play much (if any) defense. The strongest part of Red Bulls left back Roy Miller’s game is his ability to join in the attack and a left mid providing no defensive cover would force him to stay back more frequently. Hopefully Felipe is allowed to play the free role behind Bradley Wright-Phillips and focus on feeding him the ball. Perhaps the Red Bulls will switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-1-1 to allow Felipe more freedom to operate.

I want to thank Lester for his precious help and for taking the time to answer my questions. You can follow him on twitter @redbjb