On Wednesday night the Impact took another big step towards the CONCACAF Champions League final. It was less than five months ago when the Bleu-Blanc-Noir finished in dead last in the MLS regular season standings, and things looked bleak.
So what has changed with this team that only won six regular season matches in 2014?
Although there has been some early criticism of Marco Donadel, the midfield has profited from their off-season signings. So who are these new faces that have given a jolt of life to the Montreal midfield?
Although technically he was brought in midway through 2014, Piatti is a force in the midfield when he is on his game. Although some commentators have knocked him for being greedy with the ball, he is a gifted player and has played at the highest level in South America. He has a ruthless ability to get into the attack and is deadly around the goal. It only takes watching a few highlights of Piatti scoring goals with San Lorenzo to see why being greedy might not be such a bad quality.
The Englishman brings a lot of experience to the middle of the park for the Impact. Reo-Coker has captained numerous teams in England including Aston Villa and West Ham for periods. After playing for both the Whitecaps and Chivas USA, he has acclimatized himself to the nuances of the MLS. The former Aston Villa player has the ability to win a lot of balls in the midfield and transition the ball from the latter third of the pitch forward. It looks like he will be a battler in the defensive midfield week in and week out for the Impact.
The youth product of A.C. Milan has taken some heat for his play and his inability to play 90 minutes after only four matches. Donadel has not been spectacular but did anyone expect him to be? He has been working well in the "defensive triangle" with Reo-Coker and Laurent Ciman in the centre of defence. Donadel, like Reo-Coker brings a ton of experience and has logged some very important minutes for the Impact so far in their quest for the CONCACAF Champions League. If he can be used wisely in the squad rotation throughout the season, Donadel will prove to be an important piece for Frank Klopas.
Due to the fact that Alexander is cup tied for the CONCACAF Champions League, Impact supporters have not had the chance to see too much of the former New York Red Bulls (NYRB) midfielder. In 2014 Alexander featured in all 34 matches for a good NYRB team, proof that his longevity and consistency will be an asset for Impact. Although he has only played 14 minutes so far for the Impact this season, Montreal fans should be excited for what he can bring to the team.
Depth and Experience:
Each of these new faces brings something different (and valuable) to the Impact. No longer do the Impact have to rely solely on attacking down the side that Andres Romero is on; Montreal have options. Adding depth to the squad through these players can give Klopas confidence that when he wants to make a change, he can with peace of mind.
With the injury to Justin Mapp, this depth will need to prove itself in the coming months. An honorable mention should also be given to Dominic Oduro, who played on the wing against Alajuelense, and gave fits to the Costa Ricans all night. It is still very early in the season but the combination of experience, skill, depth and leadership looks very promising for Montreal. The midfield depth will be put to the test again Saturday afternoon as the Impact take on the New England Revolution in Foxboro.