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The Donny Toia / Ambroise Oyongo experiment.

We'll discuss what is most likely the second most talked about roster subject since the Montreal Impact 2016 training camp started (the first, obviously being Didier Drogba)


Many people are perplexed by the left vs right swap implemented by Mauro Biello at the beginning of camp. Others might call this a "first world" type problem. With two excellent young fullbacks, why even waste ink discussing how to deploy such luxury? Especially when considering the Impact had one of the most impressive defensive line-ups in MLS 2015.

Why mess with something that ain't broken people ask? I'll theorize and try to explain what I think Biello's goal and plan is. Hopefully we'll get some comments and dig into this deeper.

We’ve all seen some pretty impressive moves by Biello since he’s taken charge of the Bleu-Blanc-Noir late last summer and guided us through a successful playoff qualification and exciting run to the semi-finals.  Already in less than a year in charge, Mauro Biello has earned our respect and most of all our patience.  He's managed to inspire the supporters, motivate the players and rebuild the foundation of the Impact.

Here’s what I think:  Pretty sure everyone agrees Donny Toia is the stronger defensive full back and Ambroise Oyongo is more adept to bombing down the touch line and helping out the attack.  With Ignacio Piatti being our most obvious choice at left wing, if we kept last year’s formation, our pairings on the flanks would be:

Left: Toia / Piatti.

Right: Oyongo / Ontivero or Venegas or Oduro or Romero or Salazar.

Pretty sure you see what I’m getting at here, our pal Toia’s job is made even easier by having a pretty consistent partner on the left side.  Meanwhile our buddy Oyongo needs to constantly figure out what five different wingers will do in different scenarios and situations.  Add to that the fact that he himself likes to venture up the field and it makes for a lot of confusion, hesitation and opportunities for the opposition to take advantage of.

Not always easy to hit the ground running when you’re constantly learning and trying to figure out what the new guy will do.  This is why we often see teams which have been overhauled in the off-season struggle and take a long time to gel, even with huge stars in the lineup (ahem Toronto FC).  There is a lot to say for continuity, experienced partnerships can take you a long way in soccer.

A few more factors to consider:

  • Oyongo has more experience playing on the left side, so asking him to play on the right is another disadvantage to him.
  • Oyongo is left footed and likes to run up the pitch to cross the ball in with this left.
  • Toia is also left footed, but crossing isn’t a big part of his game.  He prefers to stay a little deeper.
  • Toia does however have one helluva shot from distance.  If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  So I’m assuming we want to use that as another weapon in our arsenal.  Very difficult for a left footed player to take a shot at net from the left side of the field from distance.

To recap, I think Biello put a lot of thought into this.  It caters to Toia’s and Oyongo’s individual strengths while making us a more balanced team defensively and augmenting our offensive weapons as well.  Sounds like a brilliant plan on paper and it should make us a better team in the long run.

We’ve seen some growing pains and it isn’t quite perfect yet, it’ll take at least 5-6 games until we can start to judge it a success or failure.  We should also mention, Biello would come out of this looking like an absolute genius. Enough to make me go out and buy an Impact jersey with his name and number 20 on it, even though i must admit I wasn't necessarily his biggest fan when he played.

My fingers are crossed.