Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE
One last time for this year Sofiane Benzaza of SB Nation's Impact blog Mount Royal Soccer answers my questions on the Impact, how the first season went, which of the veterans impressed, and whether we'll see a more experimental lineup with nothing on the line. So, Montreal. How you doin'?
Waking The Red: So, season one in the books and from an outside perspective, it looked like it was interesting at the very least in Montreal, what's your overall thoughts of how it went?
Mount Royal Soccer: As the season ends, there is a mix of satisfaction and disappointment. Satisfied about this Expansion team's capacity to be more than an expansion team and truly Evolve throughout the season. A lot of excuses and reasons were piling up early in the season to just take them for granted, give them the classical expansion troubles excuse. As the season went along, expectations fluctuated from my point of view but also from other media members and fans. From a pre-season period of doubt and discovery to a found tactical identity midway in the season, the whole process of the club's evolution as a whole had tangible landmarks. From the coaching staff to the head office, the Montreal Impact as an organization adapted to different situation on and off the field.
The disappointment part comes from that same level of expectation that was fluctuating. Myself (and I still believe that) gave the team 2-3 year to do what they have to do to start building the foundations for the club in MLS. That mindset is still the background of the canvas I imagine the Montreal Impact to be in.
Now, when the team started playing better and some players were stepping up to the plate, the expectation went from ‘' Be All That You Can Be ‘' mindset to ‘' What If The Playoffs Is Not That Far Away ‘' . I will give credit to my colleague Giovanni Sardo for stating early in the season that the Montreal Impact will still be in the playoff race by August-September. With the late international signings such as Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta gave that boost that the team needed inside the Jesse Marsch framework of hard work, character and team spirit.
Finishing so close from a playoff spot does hurt when you see the effort of the team and how they surprised many other clubs later in the summer. Hence the disappointment when I look from that point of view.
WTR: Who's been the best of the Impact's veteran pickups this year? Will they all be back next season? Are the expectations that the Impact will be at least in the playoffs?
MRS: Very interesting question and I was going to answer Felipe Martins but he is not a veteran. The team's co-MVP (there can only be one though) Patrice Bernier is pretty much the rock in the midfield with overall strong values on and off the pitch. A natural ambassador being from Montreal, Bernier really went through a tough time when he was on the bench at the beginning of the season. He proved character and soccer skills to show his worth when Jesse Marsch put him back in the starting lineup.
His versatility and wide profile of offense and defense has really put him as one of the pillars of the team and part of the core. Let's just say that he delivered on what the Montreal Impact expected when they signed beyond the marketing aspect (that is important) and really let the truth be said on the field.
As per veterans coming back, I am not sure on the contract situations of many players but unsure on the potential return of Nelson Rivas, even though he has officially one year left in his contract. The Colombian defender was injured for most of the season so we will wait and see.
The bigger question marks would be whether Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp will be back with the team or not. Assuming they still have contracts running for next year, they might be hard to move. Even though, they were tagged as part of the core of the team, the age factor for Arnaud and consistency for Mapp are factors against them. Both have high wages (275K for Arnaud, 218K for Mapp) and moving them might free up some space.
Value on the field for both players has been interesting and a mix of good and bad. Davy Arnaud is hard working player, gave his all throughout the season and truly represented the team as one of the leaders and a captain. I do not see him going anywhere outside retirement and can still be effective with the club. But some competition and alternatives on the midfield (on the sides) can only help the club also.
Justin Mapp is that very talented technical player that has trouble really breaking out his shell. He has mixed up the good with the disappointing and throughout a whole season was not the most reliable player consistency wise. I personally love his skills and Jesse Marsch has recognized his value when playing limited minutes.
In any ways, I am almost certain that the Montreal Impact will be (are) looking for an offensive midfielder and that could shift or move out some players to make space for that ‘'Impact'' player (DP or not) in the midfield and on the salary cap.
WTR: With nothing to play for, will there be a more experimental lineup from the Impact for this one, or will they play the first team and be looking to pile on to Toronto's misery?
MRS:' You Are Amway on My Mind ‘' was a title for a paragraph I wrote on one of my recent pieces ‘' With 2 games left and out of the playoffs, what should the Montreal Impact do? ‘'
No matter what happens, having the highest Canadian seed for the 2013 Amway seems to be of great importance of the Montreal Impact and that makes total sense. Piling on Toronto FC is obviously a checkbox that needs to be filled by the Impact after the 0-3 loss at Stade Saputo. Will we see Karl Ouimette, Calum Mallace get more playing time against TFC? I doubt it.
I expect to see the best squad possible but with Felipe's injury that would be easier said than done. Finishing off the season with 2 wins is in line with the Montreal Impact's culture of winning and performing that has helped them to get where they are in Major League Soccer.
Merci beaucoup Sofiane. You can check out my answers to his questions as well as get the Montreal view of the game over at Mount Royal Soccer.