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Can Cabrera Change Impact Narrative?

Colombian faces biggest rival in first game in charge

MLS: Toronto FC at Houston Dynamo
Another day, another time, Wilmer Cabrera shakes hands with TFC coach Greg Vanney in Houston last season. Tomorrow he faces Vanney as the sixth coach of the Montreal Impact.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Part 4 - Mauro Biello.

Part 5 - Remi Garde.

Part 6 - Wilmer Cabrera.

The chapters are short, and the narrative rarely dull. A tragi-comedy that could still reach epic proportions, with a predictable ending which, if it matches the chapters, brings sadness, doom and despair, not only to the principal actors, but also to the supporting cast of fans who throughout, yield little influence.

Wilmer Cabrera, the 51 year-old former Colombian World Cup veteran is the man charged with saving Montreal Impact’s season. Does he possess enough might? Is he of the stature required? After all it’s been more a story of failure than achievement so far. Not so much for Cabrera, but for the Impact. Three play-off qualifications in 7 years. Can he turn things around in the two months or so that remain?

Well, actually it’s less about turning things around, apart from recent form of course, but throughout the earlier part of the season, previous management without the team’s most influential player, had the unit punching above it’s weight, the reason why now, it’s more about consolidating current status and kicking on.

That influential player needs no introduction and remains on the injured list, As does another key element of the team, Samuel Piette, injured in the last Canadian Classique.

MLS: Toronto FC at Montreal Impact
Samuel Piette has not yet fully recovered from the abdominal injury suffered against TFC in the season’s previous meeting.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Without these two, the task becomes infinitely harder for any coach, never mind Wilmer Cabrera or Remi Garde. In fact without either player in the line-up you fear for Montreal’s chances at BMO Field and for the remainder of the season. That’s how important Piatti is, while Piette provides much needed cover and a huge beating heart from which others around take inspiration and derive confidence.

Had Piette been on the field against, Dallas, the smart money says 3-0 would never have become 3-3, and chances are Remi Garde, the Impact coach with the best win percentage over Toronto FC (50%), would still be at the helm.

Tomorrow evening, Wilmer Cabrera and his new assistant Patrice Bernier will need to work feverishly to lift their troops. No better man for that than Bernier, who bleeds bleu/black/noir. In these times when club identity is more abstract than defined, Bernier is the vein that links past to present, the one who represents what Montreal’s soccer team means, like no other. If the club seek identity they need look no further. Instilling some of what he has upon the playing staff, is the urgent and immediate priority. Doing the same with club leadership should be next.

Montreal will need to be more courageous than they normally are away from home, particularly at BMO Field. Too many times in the past, Toronto FC with their more powerful, physical players; Altidore, Bradley, Mavinga, Zavaleta, now also Omar GonzalezGOmar , have too easily bullied the Montreal XI, and won the game.

MLS: Toronto FC at Montreal Impact
Threat, and a sign Impact fans will not want to see repeated, Saturday night. Altidore celebrates capping the win for Toronto in the previous meeting at Stade Saputo, earlier this season.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The time really is long overdue for Montreal to emerge from their BMO Field shell, for if they don’t, another defeat beckons.

Toronto FC for their part have had a season just about as convincing as Montreal’s - not very. And for that reason, hope springs eternal for the blue side.

The two seasons when Toronto dominated MLS, are becoming a fading memory. Since winning the MLS Cup and since becoming the second Canadian club to reach a CONCACAF Champions League final, the sense of underachievement is significant, especially considering they have the highest wage-bill in North American soccer.

The break-up of the Giovinco-Altidore partnership has been a key factor, but so to has the loss of Victor Vazquez.

Players brought in as replacements have yet to develop the same chemistry, and coach Greg Vanney really now needs to earn his money by ensuring the Reds are still in the mix, post-season.

Montreal always struggles against the presence and physicality of Altidore. Somehow they need to discover strategy that reduces the American’s influence, and at the same time starve Pozuelo from getting quality time on the ball. Both these players inflicted the damage in the season’s first outing at Stade Saputo, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out who carries the main threat to Montreal this Saturday evening.

Wilmer Cabrera says he’s a risk taker, but he knows that’s not the area in which to push the envelope. That needs to happen at the other end of the field. He wants to ensure at the end of 90 minutes Montreal has done everything it possibly can to win three points, that every sinew has been strained to the limit and nothing is left in the locker-room.

How tomorrow evening unfolds remains to be seen. Does the plot thicken, or twist? A draw will be far from a disaster, an away win beyond most Impact fans’ wildest dreams.

Game on!

Line-Ups (projected) -

Toronto FC - Westberg - Mavinga, Gonzalez, Auro - Morrow, Bradley, Osorio, DeLeon - Pozuelo - Aitodore, Mullins.

IMFC - Bush - Sagna, Camacho, Raitala, Lovitz - Okwonkwo, Shome, Taider, Lappalainen - Bojan, Urruti


Match Officials -

Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referees: Frank Anderson, Eric Weisbrod
4th Official: Robert Sibiga
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez