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IMPACT - Early Days, But Concerns in Central Defence?

Part of a pre-season preview that will look at the squad’s readiness for 2020. Firstly we take a look at the defence.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Montreal Impact
Rod Fanni - Top central defender in the squad, but how many games can he play at 38?
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

While the additions of Romell Quioto and Joel Waterman to last year’s squad are to be welcomed, most Impact fans have so far been left underwhelmed by the club’s close-season transfer business.

Defenders Daniel Lovitz, Victor Cabrera and Bacary Sagna have all departed. The exited trio are not reasons for undue alarm, the non-arrival of replacements, Waterman apart, is.

It’s clear when you study the landscape certain player-target files must still be fluid and in process, for if Montreal enters 2020 with the current confirmed player personnel, a lot will depend on the charismatic presence of the new coach to get things off to a positive start.

The operation doesn’t yet look ready for a new season which begins with the serious business of continental competition.

There’s still time of course, but central defence remains the obvious area of concern. With positive signs finally emerging around the immediate future of Zachary Brault-Guillard, it looks more encouraging on the defensive flanks. Clement Bayhia is also a possible contender on the right side, with particularly Raitala and Corrales providing sound options on the opposite side.

In stepping up a level to MLS, Joel Waterman remains an unknown quantity. The 24-year-old missed Cavalry’s big Canadian Championship games against Vancouver and Montreal last season, so we’ve yet to see the player perform at something approaching MLS level. That’s not intended to be negative, he wouldn’t be the first player to step up a level and take it in his stride after all, but we just don’t know.

Will be interesting to see how Joel Waterman (24) steps up to MLS after his move from Cavalry...

In previous years bearing a tradition of questionable recruitment, it might have been a greater cause for concern than now. But new Sporting Director, Olivier Renard comes with a reputation for astuteness when it comes to identifying talent, and the Belgian clearly feels Waterman measures up. Fans are placing their trust in Renard, anticipating their faith will be rewarded.

Which leaves Rod Fanni, Rudy Camacho and Karifa Yao. There’s almost 20 years between the most experienced, Fanni, and the least, Yao. Fanni is 38 and brilliant, but cannot possibly play every game. Yao (19) untried and unproven, with only 4 unused sub appearances to his name in MLS, seems at best potential, and Rudy Camacho at 28, the peak year in most outfield players’ careers, has yet to prove after almost two seasons in MLS that he can make the grade.

If you were selecting a central defensive pairing from these options tomorrow, it would be Fanni, plus any one from the other three.

Who gets the nod to partner the former Olympique Marseille defender? Is Yao ready, can Waterman make an immediate step up, or has the coaching staff managed to eke some improvement out of Camacho at this relatively late stage in his career?

SOCCER: AUG 28 MLS - Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Montreal Impact
Another chance for Rudy Camacho to shine and make a place his own...
Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Admittedly I know little of Karifa Yao or Joel Waterman, but heading into a heavy schedule of early season matches without another established centre-back on the books looks chancy.

Olivier Renard and Thierry Henry know their players better than anyone of course. I expect however if they don’t go into the market for central defensive reinforcement before the trip to Costa Rica, it’s because the right player has not yet become available. Remember of course the transfer window closes only on May 5th, so there will still be opportunity for acquisition and adjustment two months into the new season. Might be too late to bolster Champions League claims however.

Then again the management team may well already trust the central defensive players at their disposal and make no further moves to strengthen the department.

While it’s true you defend as a team and attack as one, failure to further strengthen this area would surprise for a club emerging from 2019 with one of the worst goals-against records in MLS.

But this writer is prepared to be proven wrong.


Do you think that IMFC has adequate quality cover available in the central defensive positions?

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