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The 2016 Montreal Impact Preview: Profiles, Depth and Pros/Cons

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Breakdown and team analysis for the Montreal Impact heading into 2016. We'll cover player profiles, depth and forecast the pros and the cons.

Piatti, Ciman, Drogba and Biello
Piatti, Ciman, Drogba and Biello
PHILIPPE-OLIVIER CONTANT/AGENCE QMI

Expecting Mauro Biello to favor the 4-3-3 system, the Impact coach will turn to the 4-2-3-1 when facing tougher opponents on the road.  That formula was applied at BC place last weekend and it worked against the Vancouver Whitecaps. An important 3-2 win over the Whitecaps was key to kick-start the staff's vision, something they have worked on all preseason.

The biggest difference this year lies in the #8 role, currently held by Eric Alexander and eventually Patrice Bernier (currently injured). I do expect to see them play higher up the field at Stade Saputo and more defensively alongside Donadel when facing tougher competition.

Goalkeepers:

Evan Bush

Excellent reflex goalkeeper.  Routinely puts up highlight real saves.  However he lacks a lot in game management and ball control.  Mental errors are also a big part of his game:

  • The senseless yellow card for time wasting getting him suspended before the CCL final was disheartening and was avoidable.

  • He has a tendency of putting the ball back into play too quickly after a great save or goal kick, instead of slowing the game down and letting the defense recompose itself.

  • Oddly enough, the opposite is also true, you can regularly see him thinking and taking way too much time with the ball when one goal down.

  • Also have to mention the numerous times he gives up possession by putting the ball directly out of play from a goal kick or passing directly to the opposing team when not under pressure.

  • He's an absolute horror to watch with the ball at his feet.

This might have been acceptable or have gone by unnoticed by Frank Klopas, but knowing Mauro Biello's attention to the smallest of details, I'm sure he'll be forced to work on this.  Seeing him make the same mistakes this preseason, I can't help but wonder if the days of Kronberg and Crepeau aren't far off while Bush's market value is still high.

Backup goalkeepers:  Kronberg and Crepeau both seem to be more than capable MLS caliber goalies.  Almost a waste to keep them both on the bench and payroll for 2016.

Backs:

I wouldn't change one thing with our 4 starting backs (Ambroise Oyongo, Laurent Ciman, Victor Cabrera and Donny Toia).  Their preparation, work ethic and composure were the highlight of 2015 (Along with Drogba's 11 goals in 11 games).  I can't help but wonder how much of this was due to Concina last year and if his presence will be missed?

Backups: Wandrille Lefevre and Hassoun Camara are a luxury on the bench.

I expect Lefevre's value to increase a lot this year, I feel he'll show us more and more quality throughout the season.

Camara, he's always been a fairly consistent contributor.  Hard nosed, penchant for rough tackling while being comfortable with the ball at his feet.

Maxim Tissot

Would probably be gone if he wasn't a homegrown player. He's had the time, opportunity and different positions offered to him, but like Mallace just hasn't developed fast enough.  The team would obviously feel bad pulling another Ouimette (giving up on a homegrown).  The backlash from the media and some supporters really hurt the club, but it had to be done. The Ouimette story has bought some time for Tissot.

Midfielders:

Marco Donadel

Will be one of the keys to 2016, he needs to stay healthy and avoid suspensions.  Mind you that's easier than done, playing the #6 role demands tough pitbull style marking and tackles.  Its a necessary part of the position and telling him to calm it down would also reduce his effectiveness.  The defense tends to unravel without him destroying plays and slowing down attacks ahead of them.  We have no one that can step in and do what Donadel does.  He provides a great balance between destroyer and distributor.

Eric Alexander

I'm hoping he pulls what I call a Mapp 2012-2013 and Romero 2013-2014.  The transformation Mapp and Romero showed us those two years was astounding.  Literally went from a total and utter disappointment to shining star adding hope and excitement with every touch of the ball.  He did this regularly with the Red Bulls however has yet to show it with the Impact.  Hopefully this is the year.

Harry Shipp

Under appreciated by the coaches in Chicago, but loved by the fans.  There are several opposing theories to this.  I believe 2016 will show us who was right.  Is he really missing the top level fitness and work ethic or is it just a bad wrap because he was played out of position?

He's obviously got the talent and vision.  Seems to have a similar style to Pirlo and Ozil (I said STYLE, not saying he has the same level of talent).  He won't bomb up and down the field for 90 minutes attacking every loose ball, but he will chip in the perfect pass a few times per game.

Just need to make sure we capitalize on those opportunities and not blow them (cough Oduro cough).

Patrice Bernier

Many people assumed he was finished either by injuries or tired legs when Klopas benched him repeatedly in 2015.  He later came back under Biello and proved he still had gas in the tank, and also proved how wrong Klopas was by being one of the key contributors during the final stretch.  Everyone's fingers are crossed that he can give us at least one more year.  Expect him to play in a rotation with Alexander and Shipp.

Calum Mallace

Just hasn't developed as well as we'd hoped.  We can no longer say it was a lack of playing time, he got loads of it with Klopas.  He's got the legs and lungs, but hasn't showed much besides that sublime last minute pass to Porter in last years CCL run.

Can't complain about his salary though, so he might stick around a while longer.  Late bloomer?

Wingers:

Ignacio Piatti

As much as i hate the thought of it, I'm going to say he will not be with us in 2017.  If he manages to finish 2016 with the Impact it'll be the longest he's ever stayed at one club in his career.

Two possible outcomes:

1-  He'll put in a great season in order to earn a lucrative contract elsewhere, either back home in Argentina to be closer to family or go mercenary style and pick up millions in China.

2-  The relationship with the Impact will deteriorate and his performances will reflect it.  I hope I can come back here next March and write I was wrong, but his history is hard to ignore.  When at the top of his game he's an absolute pleasure to watch.  Our best hope is he really enjoys playing with Drogba, Ontivero and Romero (once he's back) enough to want to stick around a little longer.

Lucas Ontivero

He's got the talent, question is does he have the head for it?  I hear alarm bells when someone has been through so many different academies and teams in so little time. There's gotta be a reason no one has tried to keep him longer.
Is it dressing room attitude, off the field issues, or work ethic?  He'd be a nice catch if it works out, but i'm not holding my breath.

Johan Venegas

Some flashes of brilliance but seems to be struggling with adapting to MLS and Montreal. Technically brilliant, but lacks toughness. If it does work out and proves himself a capable starter, we might find ourselves ridiculously wealthy and spoiled in the wingers department once Romero comes back.  That would be a first for Montreal.

Dominic Oduro

I consider Oduro a winger, not primarily a striker.  What can be said that hasn't already been said by all his previous clubs and their fans. He's fast and exciting to watch, just doesn't show up to the big games. Has a knack of starting the season well enough but having nothing left in the tank by the end.

Oddly enough, its exactly like watching a sprinter try to run a marathon. Eventually clubs and fans get tired of seeing him waste open nets and trade him.

There will always be another team that'll take him cause his stats are still fairly impressive, until you realize how many more he could've and should've had.  Possibilities would be endless and his work ethic is undeniable.

Forwards:

Didier Drogba

He's Drogba, if he plays like Drogba everyone will be afraid of us.  Enough said.

After Drogba:

Huge, glaring lack of depth, quality and experience behind Drogba.  Saputo tried, but just wasn't successful finding someone willing to come and play second fiddle to Drogba.

Can't really blame them either. I don't consider us a viable threat unless we address this gap.  We have some promising up and comers, but you just can't gamble a season and playoff run on one 38 year old world class striker, even if it is Drogba.

Keys to success this season:

  • Piatti, Drogba, Donadel and Ciman must stay healthy.
  • Anyone of: Ontivero, Venegas, Oduro or Romero must claim right wing.
  • Finding some depth in midfield #6 and #8 roles would help a lot.
  • If two of these happen, we're among the top three favorites for Supporters Shield, MLS Cup and CCL Glory.

Positive points for 2016:

  • Biello's system.
  • Alexander shows up.
  • Solid and stable backline.
  • Attendance at Stade Saputo.

Negative points for 2016:

  • Not much speed or endurance in the midfield, we need help there.
  • Missing depth at key positions, injuries and suspensions will hurt us.
  • High pressing teams (NYRB) will be our biggest weakness.

Positioning and depth chart: