To say that last week was a big one for the Montreal Impact would be an understatement. It might just have been of the biggest in club history.
Impact Finally Replace Marco Di Vaio
It began with bang, on Monday July 27th, as the club announced the acquisition of former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba via trade from the Chicago Fire. The day he arrived in Montreal, hundreds of fans converged at the airport to show their support. Almost instantly the club began reaping the rewards, as reports started surfacing that ticket sales started to increase and the club's boutique was running out of jerseys.
MLS All-Star - Laurent Ciman
It also just happened to be the same night fan favorite Laurent Ciman suited up for the annual MLS All-Star game. For Impact fans, it is no surprise that he was selected as he has been a rock on the club's back line. He made his appearance for the second half and helped the MLS All-Stars to 2-1 victory. He has truly shown that he is an elite talent in the league, and footy fans in Montreal should enjoy his presence while he is here.
The following day there was more good news, as Costa Rican midfielder Johan Venegas arrived in Montreal and the club officially announced his signing to begin the new week.
In case there were any doubts that the week could not get any better for the club, they managed to come away with a full three points on the road. The win came against star studded expansion side, NYCFC a team chasing the Impact for that final playoff spot. It was not the perfect road game, but they managed to get what they needed the most, the full three points and create some distance between themselves and NYCFC. It was the perfect way to kick start the second half of the season.
Roster Decisions Loom
The good news is many of the players that have been sidelined with injuries are either ready to return or are close. We saw Eric Alexander, return to the starting lineup this past weekend, and Justin Mapp is inching closer and closer to a return. Not counting Saturday afternoon's win in NY, the club has 6 more games this month including the home and away, Canadian Championships, versus Vancouver.
All games will be at home with the exception of the second leg of that Championship match (Aug. 26th) and a visit to BMO Field to close out the month (Aug. 29h) all of them will be in the friendly confines of Saputo Stadium.
With the additions of Venegas, and of course Drogba, Frank Klopas now has his work cut out for him. Not only does he have to figure out what his best XI will be, he will also have to find a way to juggle his line-up to keep everyone fresh, and happy.
Recently, the club traded a disgruntled Baky Soumare, for Canadian international Kyle Bekker, because the Malian was unhappy about his decreased minutes. Even before the trade, Reo-Coker appeared to have fallen out of favor with Klopas, as he has been relegated to the bench over the past few weeks. With the arrival of Bekker, and the continued solid play of Mallace and Donadel playing time might be even harder to come by, although he did manage to feature briefly versus NYCFC on the weekend. He is not alone however as fan favorite Patrice Bernier also continues his struggles to get into games more regularly.
With so many games this month, Klopas will have no choice but to rotate his squad.
Will he find a way to give Laurent Ciman a break? Will Miller, Tissot, Lefevre and some of the other homegrown youngsters feature in the Canadian Championships?
When will Camara, or Eric Miller have the opportunity to log some minutes? What works in Klopas' favor is that for the first time the team has serious depth, especially in the middle of the park. Mapp, who would have been an undisputed starter had he not been injured. Eric Alexander was a regular for NYRB last season, and you could argue that Bernier, Duka and Jack Mac would all be regulars on many teams in the league, but they have been mostly used off the bench.
Even another fan favorite, Dominic Oduro, who on the weekend notched his 5th goal of the year, is at risk of losing his starting role. If Klopas decides to continue with his preferred 4-2-3-1, you would have to think the two changes will be Drogba up top with Venegas playing on the left, leaving Piatti in the middle and Romero on the right.
Now that the club has found their legit striker, and filled the middle of the park with a plethora of attacking options, will the club entertain the possibility of dangling one or two players as trade bait to lock down another defender. I found it a bit curious that the club chose to take another midfielder back in the trade for Soumare although unloading his contract was a good idea.
Clearly the club has not finished tinkering with the lineup, as we saw another move today, the club moved Jack Mcinerney, to Columbus, in exchange for a draft pick. What is interesting to note is that there was more to this deal but Adam Braz was not able to elaborate just yet. Could Cambiasso be a target? He is on Columbus' discovery list....we'll see.
Time will tell how Klopas will handle all the decisions he has to make, but unlike the previous coaches the club has had in MLS, he will be out of excuses if things go wrong. He has elite talent players, it is now up to him to find a way to make it work.
Personally, I feel this team is deep enough to make a long playoff push if they can keep the momentum going. Over the next couple of months Saputo Stadium will no doubt be the place to be.