Just for a little bit of fun, now that six seasons have been completed in MLS, I’ve given some light-hearted thought to what I would consider the Best-Ever MLS Impact XI.
I am sure everyone has their own ideas regards who should and shouldn’t be included, but this topic is usually a good one for pre-season debate over a few post-match beers . . . .
I’ve gone with Evan Bush, just. It was a close one between Evan and the only other real contender, Troy Perkins. Although Troy had slightly better Goals Against and Shut-Out averages, I’ve given Evan the nod, partially due to his longevity at the club, and partly because I feel he displays greater agility. Also, there’s a performance which always sticks in the memory, when he almost single-handedly denied a very good FC Dallas in a 2-1 win at Stade Saputo in 2015.
Neither goalkeeper has been fortunate to play behind a very good Montreal Impact defence. This is where the Impact has traditionally had most problems, with too high numbers in the “goals against” column. So defense is probably the most difficult part of the team to choose . . . . .
First the wide men. Ambroise Oyongo stands out above all others. Because of his ability to perform on either flank, you could be looking at various full-back pairings – Oyongo & Camara or Oyongo & Lovitz, who had a good season last year, and alternatively with Ambroise on the left side, you could see Chris Duvall or Jeb Brovsky as partners. However, I preferred to see Oyongo at right-back. I think that’s where he did his best work, and the player I would choose on the left side is Donny Toia, a fixture in the Impact defense for about 18 months, before selection by Atlanta United in the 2016 expansion draft.
No surprise that Toia has held down the position since moving on to Orlando City. Not only a competent defender, but like Oyongo, a player who is comfortable playing ball further upfield.
Perhaps Hassoun Camara’s versatility went against him in filling the full-back slots, but he’s a player I would certainly have on the bench for that very reason. Discipline would need to be improved however, for the most yellow-carded Impact player in MLS-history.
The centre-back pairing is an intriguing one for me. I’ve gone ultimately for Matteo Ferrari and Laurent Ciman, although not completely convinced regards either man. I may have gone with Nesta and Rivas, but we really only saw the tail-end of Nesta’s career here in MLS. Undoubtedly one of the greatest footballers to don the blue of Montreal, however the best of him was in the blue of Italy and the Rossonieri stripes of AC Milan. Had Nesta moved to Montreal five years earlier, he’d have been a shoe-in.
Unfortunately we didn’t see enough of Rivas. Injuries took their toll. Had we seen more, and had he been able to curb a fierce temperament, then who knows?
Matteo Ferrari was another whose best days were behind him when he arrived in Montreal, but he had two decent seasons before suffering, like the rest of the squad, in the Impact’s annus horribilis of 2014. Matteo was more the central defensive mainstay than any other player in the first two MLS seasons, had better fitness and more consistent availability than Nesta, so he takes the centre-back slot along with Laurent Ciman.
Laurent Ciman, when he first came to the club was simply outstanding. The best defender by miles in MLS, which frankly looked too easy for him. How did Montreal acquire such a talent in his prime, I would ponder?
Subsequent seasons however saw him play less for the team and more for himself. He stopped doing the simple things well, was often caught out of position, and for someone called “The General”, didn’t lead by example or dovetail well into the team.
His discipline did improve after three reckless red cards in a seven-week spell in 2015, when he was named MLS Defender of the Year, but the goals against column over the past two seasons left much to be desired, something clearly not lost on new coach Remi Garde.
Still, Ciman is undoubtedly a talent, and on ability alone gets a place in my team.
It’s in midfield and up-front, where for my money, the club’s best, and most exciting players have performed, even if as an observer, it’s been frustrating how slowly the side builds up play moving out of defense. That’s probably not such a surprise for a team often lacking the ingredient of youthfulness.
But my midfield is still a pretty formidable one.
Justin Mapp starts wide right. A smart player who at times had the ability to lift you off your seat. Great control and dribbling skills, and as close as we’ve had to what could be termed a traditional winger.
The center of midfield would be anchored by Patrice Bernier and Blerim Dzemaili.
In 2012, Montreal’s first MLS season, it was a case of, “if Bernier plays, the Impact play”. All good things were coming through him. He made the team tick.
True, in seasons to follow, he wasn’t always automatic choice, yet his aging legs were still always able to make a difference when called upon. A fit Bernier would be hard to omit. Not sure he’d be my captain however. While he always led by example, he possibly could’ve been more vocal on-field.
Dzemaili is a horrible loss to Montreal Impact, and the hope is that Saphir Taider can fill the void. A fantastic box-to-box player, and competitor, if there was a downside, his body-language would suggest frustration at times with team-mates, not tuned into his same wavelength.
Blerim formed a good partnership with Piatti – no wavelength problems there!
Piatti – arguably the greatest Montreal Impact player in history. The Argentinian has performed to consistently high standards throughout his Impact career. An awkward running style betrays the great ball-player that lurks within. A fantastically creative talent, that sometimes has attracted criticism for holding the ball too long, but one who can also produce that little bit of magic.
A finisher, a creator, and simply the most exciting player to wear the bleu-blanc-noir. Make the most of watching Piatti now – talents like this are not two-a-penny, and don’t come around too often!
I’ve gone 4-4-2, not because it’s my favorite formation, but the one that best works for the squad at my disposal.
The two striker positions were possibly the easiest to determine, automatic choices almost. Goal-scorer extraordinaire Marco Di Vaio, and Didier Drogba take the shirts, although it’s Didier’s first, rather than his latter season that earns the selection.
Marco’s arrival gave things a needed boost in Montreal’s rookie season, and the euphoria around Drogba’s arrival a few years later was simply phenomenal. And from each of these highly-skilled and talented players, there were goals aplenty. Ruthless finishers, both.
Not exactly sure how they would’ve dovetailed as partners, but great players always find a way as they say. It would be simply impossible to have left either out of my team.
So here it is -
Subs: Perkins, Camara, Brovsky, Donadel, Tabla, Nyassi, Mancosu
Let us know if you agree and if not what would you change? Let us know who would have or not have made you Impact best-ever 11.
Do you agree?
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