There was an undoubted feelgood factor Friday night at MTELUS for the launch of the new Impact shirt at the 2019 season kick-off event.
Around 1500 fans filled the venue, not only to see the latest in Impact fashion, but to hear from new President Kevin Gilmore, Administrative Director of Soccer Operations Pat Leduc, and Head Coach Remi Garde. It was also a chance to re-connect with the players, briefly back in town before heading off to Florida for Pre-Season Camp Part 2, today (Monday).
The atmosphere was one of optimism, the crowd chanted player names enthusiastically and greeted each one as they were introduced to the stage, none more so than Ignacio Piatti, probably about to play his last season in Canada. And it’s never a bad sign when last year’s coach returns to a warm welcome.
Even Remi Garde’s reluctance to stick his neck out and declare his side would make post-season this year, and the new President being questioned about his lack of soccer background, did not dampen the mood.
But one thing that struck me very clearly was the lack of attacking depth up on the MTELUS platform. For sure it looks a more stable squad than last season and for sure in Maxi Urruti it will help to have a recognised striker up top. But take Piatti away and there’s not that many goals up on that stage last Friday night!
Of the 47 goals the Impact scored in MLS last year, the Argentinian was involved in 29 (16 goals, 13 assists). Recent departure Alejandro Silva contributed to 16 (5+11). So, again it looks like the Impact will rely heavily on 33-year-old Piatti for its firepower. Urruti is likely to match or better the departed Silva’s output, but what if one or other of these two players get injured?
Taider will chip in with a quota of goals from midfield, but with the possible exception of Harry Novillo, there’s no-one else proven amongst the squad to come in and fill the striking void. Even at that, Novillo is somewhat of an unknown quantity and I wonder if Remi Garde, who knows him from the past, has taken a gamble in bringing his fellow-countryman into the set-up? Certainly, a CV that in recent seasons has included brief spells at various clubs, ranging from the moderate to the obscure, is not something to encourage huge supporter confidence in the player.
I’ll happily see my scepticism proven wrong on Novillo, but even if the Frenchman turns in useful performances, Impact’s strike-force remains on the shallow side.
There’s been speculation regarding Bologna’s out of favour Nigerian 21-year-old, Orji Okwonkwo, for obvious reasons. But 4 goals in 40 apps (only 8 starts) over the past three seasons in Serie A and B, is nothing much to write home about either.
He has won a World Championship at u17 level, and with some Serie A experience behind him, perhaps he can do a job in MLS, but one can’t help feeling should this move take place, it would be more about accommodating a player within the owner’s footballing organization, rather than a specific fit for what Remi Garde needs in Montreal.
Either way more depth is required in the Impact’s striking department, or else, in a league that has become top-heavy with attacking talent over defensive prowess, the Montrealers in the stylish new blue and black stripes may be found wanting ..... again!