So, that happened. Didier Drogba is now a member of the Montréal Impact, and Costa Rican winger Johan Venegas is probably not too far behind. What does it all mean? A whole lot, frankly, and on many different levels. Over the next few weeks the look of the team will be altered; there’s really no two ways about it. Players will probably get traded and feelings will probably get hurt, but I’m guessing it will all be worth it. Playoffs here we come!
IMFC’s best connect on winner
Saturday’s match between the Montréal Impact and Seattle Sounders was decided by a Ciman goal off of a slick free kick from Marco Donadel. The hook-up was fitting since the duo were two of Montréal’s best players on the night.
Ciman’s dominance was evident early on in the match, where he made world-class tackles and interceptions. It’s becoming clear league-wide that the Belgian international may be more than just a really good defender, that he may be in fact, THE best defender in MLS. On Saturday he took his game to an even higher level (if that’s possible), blocking every Sounders’ attack in its wake before scoring the winning goal in the 88th minute.
As for Donadel, he quietly had one of the best statistical performances by a defensive midfielder this season. The much-maligned Italian completed 73 passes, created 6 chances, and won 4 aerials, the only MLS player to put together such a performance this season (courtesy of optasports.com). Surely there have been flashier performances, but for me, the numbers speak more to his steadiness and reliability on the pitch than anything else.
And speaking of reliability…
I don’t like enigmatic players, and that’s what Andrès Romero has been of late. I’ve praised him throughout the year for his work rate and tenacity, but Saturday night was another game where he failed far too often to make the right decision with the ball.
As I’ve mentioned before, his style is similar to Piatti’s in that he enjoys taking defenders on, and this can become a problem when both players (throw in Duka as well) decide to play in this manner. Romero lost the ball on many occasions against the Sounders, and to be perfectly honest, he doesn’t have the intangibles of a Piatti to get away with so many errors.
By continually cutting inside and trying to dribble by players in the box, two things end up happening. One, Romero is failing to exploit the talents and crossing potential of a very exciting player in Ambroise Oyongo. Too often do we see the Cameroonian attempt runs down the wing only to be ignored. Secondly, attempting a dribble in the offensive half that results in a loss of possession almost always leads to a counter attack. Against a team like Seattle that is sitting back, waiting for you to make a mistake, this type of play can be very dangerous and potentially costly.
Will Klopas get it right?
I find that the Impact’s attack is often a bit scatterbrained. At times there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how they build their offensive movements, and I think it revolves around the fact that none of the midfielders trust the striker up top.
With the addition of Drogba, who plays very well with his back to goal, the midfield trio will need to be more conscientious with the ball, and far less wasteful. Playing with a striker this good will require players like Piatti and Romero to change their style, and it might result in certain players getting benched.
It’s my belief that IMFC have not been able to effectively integrate the striker position into the offence this season. Whether it’s been McInerney or Oduro, there hasn’t been any real meshing between the attacking midfielders and the lone man up top. As a result, we’ve seen too many games where the team’s only offence has come off of counter attacks or the occasional set piece.
As of today, it’s a little unclear who’s been most at fault for the team’s inability to create good offence. All that second-guessing will go out the window, though, when Drogba becomes a fixture in the squad.
With Justin Mapp soon returning to action and Johan Venegas apparently quite close to joining the squad, I think the coaches will be evaluating the wing position more than any other. It will interesting to see which players adapt best to Drogba’s style of play, and which will fall by the wayside.
Trying to guess who’s best suited to play with a guy like Drogba is guesswork at best. Even though I’ve been leaning towards saying Romero won’t fit well, who knows, maybe his heart and determination will shine through. It’s really hard to know who will step up in the coming weeks. The bigger question for me will be whether or not Klopas can find the right mix, and if he finds does find it, stick with it.
After seeing him ditch the 4-4-2 that worked brilliantly at times, playing Oduro up top when it’s clearly fruitless, or taking 7-8 games too long to bench Reo-Coker, I think my worries are justifiable.
One thing I do know for sure is that with a player of Drogba's quality waiting in the box, it would be extremely advantageous for the Impact to start getting more service from their fullbacks. This will require very team-oriented wingers, players that understand how an overlapping pass into space can cause just enough confusion in a defence to free up the striker.
We’ve yet to really see how good this Impact offence can be, but I have a feeling that the inclusion of Drogba will give them that extra dimension that they’ve sorely lacked.
Either way, it’s going to be a fantastic 18 months!