This Sunday, March 6th, our Montreal Impact will play their first game of the regular season in Vancouver. Kickoff is at 5:30 pm eastern and the game can be seen on RDS and TSN. The first concern for this game versus the Whitecaps is what starting 11 will the coach, Mauro Biello, put on the pitch.
We know that during the last few games of the 2015 season, Biello played a 4-3-3 yet during the final game of the preseason, we saw Biello go with the traditional 4-2-3-1. I believe that we will see a 4-2-3-1 this Sunday in Vancouver and here is my guess as to who will start for the Impact.
Dominic Oduro (striker) :
Didier Drogba will not be making the trip out west since the club has confirmed that the player will not be playing or practicing on turf. Furthermore, Cameron Porter is reportedly out with a hamstring injury and is expected to miss a few games. The obvious choice for the lone striker position is Oduro. The Ghanaian had an impressive preseason performance with a two goal night versus DC United. Oduro's speed continued to impress and he even showed off some fancy footwork and the ability to capitalize on his opportunities.
Lucas Ontivero (Left midfielder) :
The 5'6 forward from Argentina was loaned to the Montreal Impact for the duration of the 2016 season from the Turkish giant Galatasaray. The 21 year old Ontivero only played in the final game of the preseason. In that game, he had a beautiful free kick that rattled of the cross bar and was just inches away from being a beautiful goal. Judging from Ontivero's highlight reel, he has very silky feet and can embarrass defenders. Hopefully, the short winger can transform into our own Giovinco. I hope that Ontivero can fill the hole left by Justin Mapp and make an immediate impact for our squad.
Ignacio Piatti (central attacking midfielder) :
The Argentine played some of his best soccer last year with dizzying dribbles and fantastic strikes. If Piatti plays soccer to the best of his abilities, he is instrumental to the Montreal Impact and one of the best midfielders in the MLS. In this game versus Vancouver, I envision Piatti playing as a central attacking midfielder and serving as the cornerstone for the Impact's attack. Hopefully, Piatti will be able to utilize Oduro's speed and spring the speedster into some interesting goal scoring situations. As the season progresses, I believe the Impact will play a 4-3-3 with Piatti acting as a left wing.
Johan Venegas (right midfielder) :
The Costa Rican international arrived last season from Alajuense and seemed to have some trouble adjusting to his teammates and adapting to the MLS's physical style of play. However, I believe that this year, we could see Venegas embrace his true potential and become the important winger that the Impact so desperately need.
Marco Donadel (central defending midfielder) :
The Italian finally seemed to fit in with the Montreal Impact and find his stride in the second half of last season. In this year's preseason tournament in St-Petersburg Florida, Donadel kept up his solid defensive work. Furthermore, the former Fiorentina captain will continue to be instrumental to the Impact in his set piece delivery. On the down side, Donadel or should I say Jaunadel added two more yellow cards to his already impressive collection in the Impact's final preseason game versus the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Harry Shipp (central defending midfielder) :
The Montreal Impact recently acquired the midfielder Harry Shipp from the Chicago Fire in exchange for regular and targeted allocation money. So far, the 24 year old Chicago native has not failed to impress. He has had a very good showing in the preseason and he seems to have a certain chemistry with Marco Donadel. The pair did not allow the Tampa Bay Rowdies a single goal during the final preseason game. I greatly look forward to seeing him play with the bleu-blanc-noir in 2016.
Donny Toia (left back) :
Ever since joining the Impact in 2015 from Chivas USA, the American left back has played and bonded very strongly with the members of the Montreal Impact back four. He has been rock solid on defense for the Impact. Toia also helps the Impact offense with well-timed runs up the left wing. I am looking forward to seeing the 23 year old progress in an Impact jersey. I believe Toia will continue to be instrumental to the Impact's defense for this season and many seasons to come.
Victor Cabrera (center back) :
After struggling in the first half of the season and being pulled from the lineup on a few occasions, Cabrera finally found a home between Toia and Ciman. During the offseason, the Impact acquired Cabrera's rights from River Plate so he is now officially a member of the Montreal Impact. I hope Cabrera continues his great play from last season with courageous and goal saving tackles.
Laurent Ciman (center back) :
The 30 year old Belgium international center back was one of last year's greatest surprises. One of the Impacts most important successes during the offseason was to sign the MLS defender of the year through the 2018 season. We must truly respect Laurent Ciman. He left his native Belgium and a club that adored him for the well- being of his daughter. Even with all the change in his career, Ciman was still able to dominate opposing attackers. Even though Ciman is an amazing soccer player, I believe Laurent Ciman the father is even greater than Lauren Ciman the player. I believe that the charismatic center back will build on last year's stand-out performance and continue to dominate with the Impact. Furthermore, I wish all the best to his daughter Nina.
Ambroise Oyongo (right back) :
The 24-year-old Cameroonian international took a while to finally arrive with the Impact last season. The 5'7 versatile lateral contributed to the Impact's formidable defense last season. However, Oyongo also has a very important offensive presence. We saw him run down his wing countless times last season to help contribute to the attack. I believe that this season, Oyongo will be able to balance his offensive and defensive play and contribute to all aspects of our Montreal Impact's game.
Evan Bush (goalkeeper) :
The 29-year-old Ohio native was arguably one of the best keepers in the MLS last season. Last season, we can thank Bush for an important part of the Impact's success. The American did not win keeper of the year yet he had just as many shutouts and even more saves than keeper of the year Luis Robles. Bush was nominated many times for save of the week and I can testify that some of his saves are absolutely breathtaking. I hope that the 29 year old will continue to build on his stand out performance of last year. If Bush plays like we all know he can, he is essential to the Impact and one of the most dominant keepers in the MLS.
This is my prediction for the Impacts' starting eleven versus the Whitecaps on Sunday. Hopefully the team will pick up where they left off last season. I am truly excited to see what this squad has in store for us this year. I think we have what it takes to go far in the playoffs and dominate most teams in the league. This is THE season for our Montreal Impact.
Good luck boys and Go Impact Go!