MONTREAL – Now the questions start for the Montreal Impact. Who returns? Who leaves?
A group of 11 players are under contract with Montreal for the 2016 season. They are defenders Laurent Ciman and Ambroise Oyongo, midfielders Patrice Bernier, Marco Donadel, Calum Mallace, Ignacio Piatti, Nigel Reo-Coker, Andres Romero and Johan Venegas, and forwards Didier Drogba and Romario Williams.
Of the remaining members of the roster, most have options for 2016 written into their contracts. Discussions over their futures are imminent.
And then there are Victor Cabrera, Dilly Duka and Justin Mapp.
Cabrera, on loan from Argentinean giants River Plate, is a 22-year-old center back that head coach Mauro Biello described as the “revelation of the year” on Thursday morning. Aggressive, comfortable on the ball, Cabrera established himself as MLS Defender of the Year Laurent Ciman’s partner of choice in front of goalkeeper Evan Bush.
When a reporter asked Cabrera, on Friday morning, if he wanted to return to Montreal in 2016, Cabrera’s answer was as short as it was convincing – “I want to be back,” he simply said.
But the Impact and River Plate will have to talk this over. Technical Director Adam Braz didn’t venture into the details of a possible deal with River – permanent transfer, another year-long loan, etc. –, but he wants Cabrera to be back here, too.
“It’s something we’re going to work on,” Braz said. “We want him back. He’s on loan, so we’ll have discussions with River Plate and see how we can get a deal done.”
Duka and Mapp, for their part, are out of contract at this year’s end. While injury limited Mapp to five MLS games in 2015 – it was “a season to forget,” he admitted –, Duka was a consistent presence, scoring two goals and assisting two more in 27 games, including 19 starts.
“I enjoyed my time in Montreal, basically a year and a half,” Duka said. “This year was a success because of [CONCACAF] Champions League and making it to the MLS Cup Playoffs and all that. It was a good year and a half. Now, I’m just waiting for the Impact to make an offer. I’m going to look at that. If that’s good, I’ll definitely come back.”
Mapp’s situation is more complicated. He is one of a handful of players, league-wide, that are eligible for MLS’ new Free Agency mechanism. Mapp concedes that there “definitely” a possibility that he’ll be back, but he says he’ll talk things over with his family before making any decision.
“It’s a little different, a new thing under the CBA,” Mapp said. “It’s kind of interesting to have that option, it’s something different from the past. I’ve played for Montreal and really enjoyed it here. Coming back is a realistic option, but the idea of free agency is intriguing. If I’m qualified for that, after so many years, I at least want to make sure that I explore all of my options.”
The doors to Stade Saputo will be open for all three players.
“The players know that we’ll be reaching out individually, so I don't want to comment too much on individuals’ futures before we speak to them,” Braz said. “But with regards to the two free agents, yes, we want them back.”