This is the 2nd part of my starting 11 predictions and IMFC’s player depth at these positions. In this article, I will look at our midfield as well as our forwards.
Central Defending Midfield:
First choice: Marco Donadel
Even at his age, Donadel is a dominant presence on the pitch. He is a master at sitting in front of our back line, contributing defensively and then quickly getting the counter going. Simply put, there is no one else on our current roster who can match Donadel’s skill set as a holding midfielder.
Second choice: Callum Mallace: This wasn’t really a very difficult choice, Mallace is the only other natural CDM on our roster. He is a decent 2nd choice here and has offered IMFC a few decent games in the past.
First choice: Hernan Bernardello
The argentine returned for his second spell with Montreal and has established himself as a quality starter. Bernadello is a hard worker and depending on the coach’s mandate, he can adopt a more offensive or defensive attitude. He has proved to be an essential part of our counter attacking style and at the age of 30, he is the youngest of my projected midfield starters.
Second choice: I do not currently see a replacement to Bernardello on the Impact’s roster. Once Blerim Dzemaili arrives, he will free up a midfielder to serve as a back up to Bernardello. However, until then, we must hope Bernardello doesn’t get injured. In a worst-case scenario, I believe the young and untested Louis Béland-Goyette might be able to step in to replace him.
First choice: Patrice Bernier
The Impact’s captain will be forced to start most games until Dzemaili arrives. Bernier is now 37 years old and in his last season of football before he retires. He might no longer have the legs to start every week but due to the Impact’s drastically undermanned midfield there is really no other choice.
Second choice: Shamit Shome
Who? Shamit Shome, you know, the 38th overall selection in this year’s entry draft. While I am extremely excited about Shome as a prospect, I do not believe he has the technical abilities or vision yet to start an MLS match. Sadly, if Bernier goes down to injury, he might be pressed into service. Until Dzemaili arrives, our midfield is threadbare. This is a plea to Mr. Saputo: please bring us another midfielder before the season starts! We are in desperate need. Please Mr. Saputo, open your big cheese chest and spare us a few crumbs for a decent midfielder.
Note: When Dzemaili arrives, I believe he will start as a central midfielder. This will free up Bernier so that he can serve as a replacement for either Bernardello or Dzemaili.
First choice: Ignacio Piatti
Does this really come as a surprise to anyone? Piatti was by far our best player last year and was in contention for the MLS’s MVP award. The Montreal Impact have fended off interest for the argentine. Nacho seems happy to be playing another season with the Impact and the Impact are thrilled to have Piatti back.
Second choice: David Choinière
The 17 year old academy product made his first MLS start during the last game of the 2016 season. He logged 76 valuable minutes and played a solid match. Choinière is a homegrown player with a tremendous amount of potential, hopefully, he will be able to get a few more minutes of experience during this campaign.
First choice: Andres Romero
Ok guys, before you all rush to the comment section to say this makes no sense, hear me out. Back in 2015, when Romero was starting on the right, he was one of our most dominant players. I know he missed nearly a year and a half but he’s looking very good in preseason and with a few more weeks before the season starts, I believe he can get back into top shape and become an offensive threat for IMFC from day one. I also know Biello has been trying out Romero in central midfield. I do not think the argentine has what it takes to start in the midfield, however, he is our best right winger and that is where I think he will start.
Second choice: Dominic Oduro
Many believe Dominic Oduro deserves to start. He finished last season very strongly with an impressive performance in the playoffs. He started all five of our playoff games and netted 2 goals and 3 assists in the process. During the offseason, Oduro reportedly rejected more money to stay in Montreal. If Romero is unfit to start, Biello will be very comfortable starting Dominic Oduro instead.
Other options: Michael Salazar, Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla
While the Impact may be lacking depth at midfield, they have plenty at the right wing position. Salazar was a nice surprise last year, for the first time since Mallace, a draft choice revealed themselves to be a quality player. Salazar played 711 minutes and scored two goals.
Tabla, like Choinière is an extremely talented academy product. The 17 year old has been tearing it up in with FC Montreal. He was also impressive during the Impact’s international friendly versus AS Roman. Reportedly, Ballou has attracted attention from some of the EPL’s largest clubs. This will be his first season in MLS. Hopefully, he will become a dominant asset for IMFC in the near future.
First choice: Matteo Mancosu
The Italian was a revelation last season. He arrived in Montreal and quickly beat out none other than Didier Drogba for the starting position and if Mancosu was able to best Drogba, he will have no trouble beating out the likes of Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Nick Depuy. Mancosu, like Oduro, went on a tear at the end of last season, scoring 4 goals and 2 assists in 5 playoff matches. Mancosu is our most talented striker and our definite starter.
Second choice: Anthony Jackson-Hamel
AJH is another academy product and many of us here at MRS are very excited about his prospects with the club. While I might not be as excited as some others about AJH, I believe he can become an impact player off the bench for the club. Last year he scored his first MLS goal but then fell to injury. I am not sure AJH is quite ready to start but hopefully with a bit more experience, he can develop into an MLS quality player.
Other option: Nick Depuy
I know that there is never much hype about players entering from the MLS draft, and rightfully so, they never seem to amount to much. However, I believe Depuy might be different. He has the height (6’5”) to dominate aerially and he proved that he can score. He has already scored 2 preseason goals for the Impact.
This is a look at who I think will be the Impact’s starting 11 versus the Earthquakes. I am not worried about the quality of our starters or our depth at either left wing, right wing or striker. We have quality players and very capable replacements. However, I believe we are extremely vulnerable in the midfield. If anything were to happen to one of the three starters I listed, an unexperienced starter will be pressed into service. Until Dzemaili arrives, we are extremely vulnerable to injury.
I believe the Impact’s starting line-up is one of the strongest in MLS. If we have absolutely no injuries between now and the end of the season, everything should be fine for IMFC. However, this is professional sports, injuries are part of the game, they will happen. Sadly, I do not think the Impact are sufficiently prepared to deal with injuries. While I believe that our best 11 players are among the best in MLS, our bench is among the weakest. If Saputo does not bring in another player or two before the season starts, I am not sure the Impact will even be able to make the playoffs.