At the beginning of the season. I was really looking forward to seeing what Nigel Reo-Coker could do to help the Montreal Impact's midfield. Sadly, 16 games into the MLS calendar I have to say, I am not really impressed. I have tried really hard to appreciate what he brings, but my problem is finding just what it is.
I understand that he has played at the highest level in the Premiership, but in a league where the pace is quicker and more physical I have a hard time seeing where he fits in. There has been widespread debate as to who should be in the starting XI, especially since he is in direct competition with hometown favorite and team captain Patrice Bernier, as well as Mallace and Marco Donadel.
As a long time fan, and supporter of the club, I always expect the most out of each of the players, every night! I expect that when they put on their jerseys and come out onto the field they will give their all! I do not remember which opponent it was but the game that stood out for me where Reo-Coker is concerned was a match that he started in his normal position and then was pushed back to the right side of the defense to finish the game.
Unfortunately, on that night, he was actually better playing as a defender that he was in his normal spot. Maybe, if this was last season, he could get away with being plugged in various spots on the field as quality depth was a major issue, but this year it is a much different story. With the exception of at the attacker's position there are many options for Klopas to use on defense and in the middle. It is one thing to be asked to drop back on defense because of injuries like he was during the Champion's League but if you are a midfielder and you are not strong in your right position, there is a problem.
It almost seems unfair to talk about the Italian midfielder after his weekend golazo but the truth is he has slowly been winning me over. Originally, I was just as unimpressed with Donadel as I was with Reo-Coker. I found him to be slow and seeing him continuously being cautioned by the officials, was frustrating! I wonder if the turning point for Donadel was the night he was sent off after picking up a couple yellow cards.
I was not sure I would ever say this but I have come to appreciate what he brings to the table. He has brought life to set pieces and corner kicks for the Impact. Prior to his arrival, there was no reason to get excited on set plays in the attacking third because the club didn't have anyone that could deliver a ball that could trouble opposing teams. Now I am not saying his deliveries are perfect or that he's one of the best, but on this Impact team he certainly delivers consistently. I am willing to bet that before the season is over, we will see him score on one too!
Piatti the new unofficial captain?
Several weeks ago Frank Klopas mentioned that he had decided to give the captain's armband to designated player Ignacio Piatti as a motivational tool. At the time he said he wanted to light a spark for the Argentinian, as he was going head to head against fellow Argentine DP Higuain of Columbus. Looking back, one has to wonder if there was more to it than he was letting on.
It was an easy answer, because on the surface one could think...okay, seems a little strange to do something like this in the Pro ranks, but maybe it makes sense. However, since that match much has changed for both Piatti and Reo-Coker. Piatti has been finding his way on to the score sheet more often and Reo-Coker has been finding minutes much harder to come by. Since playing the full ninety minutes in that dreadful loss to arch-rivals TFC, he has managed to see only 13 minutes of action over the last 3 matches.
Choices and departures?
Frank Klopas has made some head scratching decisions in his tenure as head coach of the Impact but at least he seems to be finding it easier to make adjustments as needed. It will be very important as players return from injury and he has a full squad to choose from. Picking up points will always be the priority and he will need to lean on those who are in good form.
It wasn't all that long ago that rumors started to surface that English side Crystal Palace interested in Reo-Coker?
Whether there was any truth to that rumor or not I don't know but with the summer transfer window open, I would not be at all surprised if management decide to sell Reo-Coker if there is another team interested in his services. Maybe if there was more media attention to all the little details where the Impact are concerned we would know if there is more to this story, but with the way things look right now, it does not look good for Nigel Reo-Coker. At the start of the year it seemed that he had a guaranteed spot on the field, but that appears to have changed, and he will now have to try and claw his way back into the line-up.
At the start of the year, Klopas decided to leave Patrice Bernier as the official captain, while Reo-Coker was the symbolic 'on the field' captain. Some fans will feel that Bernier will always be the captain until he is no longer with the club.
Others will say that new-comer Laurent Ciman should be given the armband, or maybe Piatti should keep it now. Personally, whoever is captain official or not, I want them to be committed to the team, and be ready to play every time they step on the field. I know there is a core of leaders on the team, but can't be a good feeling to have the responsibility of being team captain taken away from you.
It will be interesting to see how he responds on and off the field in the coming weeks.