With the Montreal Impact’s 2017 MLS campaign beginning in just a few weeks, I think now is a good time to see how the Impact’s roster is shaping up for the season. In this article, I will share with you my predictions for the Impact’s starting eleven in their season opener vs. the San Jose Earthquakes on March 4th and take a look at what other options we have at each position.
I know there has been a bit of talk about which formation would be best for IMFC in 2017 but for the purposes of my analysis, I will set up the Impact in a traditional 4-3-3. This article will cover the keeper positon as well as our back four. Stay posted to MRS for a look at our depth and projected starters for the midfield and attack positions.
Here we go! Here is the 4-3-3 I expect to see IMFC use versus the San Jose Earthquakes:
First choice: Evan Bush
The Ohio native asserted himself as our #1 keeper during the 2016 season. He started most of our games, except for a few Eric Kronberg cameos during our disappointing Canadian championship campaign. Short of injury or a few bad performances, Bush will be our starter all year long, sorry to burst your bubble Crépeau nation.
Second choice: Maxime Crépeau
IMFC has confirmed that Maxime Crépeau will act as the club's #2 keeper this season. Last year, he was our third option, behind Kronberg. Crépeau has made the first step and now we wait and see if he will continue to climb in the hierarchy and eventually challenge Bush for the #1 spot in a few years time.
Other Option: Eric Kronberg
The Impact announced that Kronberg has signed a one year deal with the club. He will serve as a very solid third keeper and bring a veteran presence to the locker room.
First choice: Ambroise Oyongo
The Cameroonian has yet to join IMFC’s preseason camp; he has been busy vanquishing Africa with his Cameroonian teammates in the Africa Cup of Nations. With the departure of Donny Toia in the expansion draft, Oyongo is our only left back that I would be comfortable starting in MLS play.
Second choice: Aaron Mkungilwa
Little is known about Mkungilwa. He served as FC Montreal’s left back last year. If he makes the first team, he could serve as a backup to Oyongo. However, Mkungilwa is untested and it remains to be seen if he can handle the MLS’ level of play.
First choice: Laurent Ciman
The Belgian international has established himself as one of MLS’s elite center backs. When Ciman is available, he will be starting for IMFC. Hopefully in 2017, Ciman will find his 2015 form and once again be in contention for the defender of the year award.
Second choice: Wandrille Lefevre
The Frenchman has progressed throughout his years with IMFC. He has learnt to use his size to his advantage in aerial duals and is our tallest central defender. Lefevre logged 1114 minutes last year in 12 starts. While Lefevre is no Ciman, he has proved himself to be reliable defensively. He is a solid 2nd option in case Le Général is unavailable.
First choice: Hassoun Camara
This was a hard choice to make. Deciding between Camara and Cabrera was not easy but I decided to go with the lanky Frenchman because, while he might not have quite the same youthful motor as Cabrera, he can defend crosses and also be a threat on set pieces in the opposing team’s box. Until Cabrera becomes more dependable in the air, I believe Camara is the best center back to pair with Ciman.
Second choice: Victor Cabrera
Cabrera has not defended well against aerial balls and that weakness has been exploited by our opponents. Despite his aerial struggles, I would still be comfortable with starting Cabrera and he is definitely a solid backup to Hassoun Camara. As you will see, I have Camara listed as my second choice for right back. If Camara starts at right back, then Cabrera slides into the #1 spot here.
Other option: Kyle Fisher
Fisher was our first choice in last year’s MLS super draft. He has continued to develop and he saw a few starts last season. We drafted Fisher as a center back, however, last year he proved his versatility by starting at fullback for IMFC.
First choice: Chris Duvall
The Impact’s only acquisition of the off season is an interesting one. Duvall is an exciting, young, talented fullback with MLS experience. I believe he will fit very well into Mauro Biello’s system of play. Like Oyongo, Duvall is an offensive minded fullback. With these two players, Biello now has the option of playing with 3 center backs and 2 wing backs in either a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2. Duvall gives the Impact some interesting tactical options and is a day one starter with a bright future.
Second choice: Hassoun Camara
I have Camara placed behind Duvall on the depth chart. While the jury is still out on who, between Duvall and Camara is the better right back, I have picked Duvall as starter for this position because I want Camara starting at CB. However, since we have no one else to backup Duvall, that responsibility falls to Camara. This means, if Duvall goes down, Camara will start at right back and Cabrera will assume one of the starting center positions.
We have sufficient depth at the keeper position as well as at center back and right back. However, it is left back that worries me. We have Oyongo as our starter but no suitable second option other than an untested academy product. Mkungilwa might be an exceptional talent, or he may not. Either way, it is still risky to rely on a rookie as a potential starter. Out of these five positions, left back is definitely the most vulnerable in case of injury. While our lack of depth at left back might not cause too many problems, it is not a safe plan for a team who wants to challenge for the tittle to be potentially dependent on an inexperienced rookie. If Saputo wants to invest defensively, left back is definitely the spot where he needs to put his money.
Stay tuned to MRS for the 2nd part of this article.