After a long wait, the Impact’s 2018 campaign finally got began on Sunday night in a packed BC Place. After an off-season of controversial moves, fans were greatly intrigued to see who exactly was going to start for the Impact and how they were going to perform.
Well, with the players the Impact had on the pitch, I was not surprised with the way they performed. When we shipped off Laurent Ciman to LAFC, we all expected that IMFC were going to bring in a new younger, more physical central defender to replace the beloved General. However, the Impact brought in Zakaria Diallo who was injured before the season even started. Our weakest position last year was the centre back position and all we did during the break was weaken that position. We should not be surprised that we struggled to shut down the Whitecaps offence because our back line simply does not have the talent to compete with any front three in the MLS. The Impact have signed Rod Fanni on a short-term deal, but we can question how much of an impact the 36-year-old will have.
What did surprise on Saturday was the performance of Matteo Mancosu. Once again, the Impact failed to address the striker position and with the injury to Anthony Jackson-Hamel, it was understandable to worry. However, after a sluggish first half, Mancosu came to life. Contrary to last year, he was not caught offside and he was making an effort to get open in the box. While he did miss a few runs to the near post, he did a decent job getting open and creating room. He was even able to win a couple of headers in the box versus the extremely physical Whitecap’s defenders. Sadly, when he was able to win those headers, no one else was in the area to profit from him winning the ball in that dangerous position.
Another nice surprise for me was the goalkeeping play of Evan Bush. In past years, we have seen Bush be a top-quality shot-stopper, but he has always lacked that sweeper-keeper aspect to his game. However, on Sunday, we saw a completely different side of Evan Bush. He was aggressive off his line and attacked the Whitecap’s many crosses. I believe that this transformation is the work of legendary goalkeeping coach Joel Bats. After 17 seasons with Lyon, he has moved across the Atlantic to join the Impact’s ranks. If Bush can keep up the level of play he did this weekend, the arrival of Bats may prove to be one of the most important off-season moves for the Impact.
As for the coaching of Remi Garde, I was happy to see him take risks. It was a gutsy call to start Ken Krolicki over the likes of Marco Donadel, but he decided to play the youngster. All in all, Krolicki did not look out of his depth. Yes, he was not perfect but for a rookie in his first MLS game, he performed very well. With his substitutions, Garde once again gave a vote of confidence to his youngsters by putting on the 20-year-old Jeisson Vargas and the 21-year-old David Choiniere. I love seeing youngsters being given a chance to perform and for the first time in years, we have a young squad. Let’s hope this group can grown and learn together.
The Impact’s next match is Saturday at 1pm versus the Columbus Crew. The Crew also gave themselves an off-season make over and their radical overhaul paid dividends in their very first game of the season when they beat the hated Toronto FC on their home pitch. The Impact now have a chance to spoil the Crew’s home opener but to do so, we will need to become much more solid defensively.