The start of a season always comes with its fair share of predictions. The Impact will soon click PLAY on its 2019 MLS regular season, this Saturday at 10pm EST, against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium (TVA Sports, 98,5, CJAD 800). It was therefore an opportune moment for the league’s “panel of experts” to provide their opinions on where the Impact would finish in the standings in a little over six months’ time.
Impact Media did its own analysis, and here are six reasons we disagree with them.
1. Nacho Piatti
Give honour to whom it is due. The Argentine Designated Player is among the league’s best. He scores more than 15 goals per season and added another skillset last year, becoming even more essential to the Bleu-blanc-noir when he established a club record for assists in a season. With his new friend and compatriot Maxi Urruti up top, don’t be surprised if our superstar has a record season.
2. Rémi Garde
The French commander is in his second season in charge. If most of the group has familiarized itself with the coach’s system of play in the last 13 months, Garde himself has gained more knowledge of his players and the league. He was able to remodel his group by acquiring elements that seemed absolutely vital to him, while helping our young players reach the next level. Garde’s influence is now clearly visible in Montreal’s style of play.
3. Winter transfers
The Bleu-blanc-noir found a solution to its most pressing problem this winter: the striker position. Maxi Urruti’s transfer from FC Dallas wasn’t too expensive for the Montreal club, but his profile matches perfectly with Rémi Garde’s vision of a striker. The Argentine applies pressure and is generous with his efforts off the ball, never hesitant to press the defense. When the team is in possession, he often makes himself available as a pivot. He’s also strong, quick, technically skilled in controlling and passing the ball, as well as finishing off opportunities, and should be especially effective in opening space for Piatti on the left wing. Let’s not forget Harry Novillo, a product from Lyon’s academy and a talented, technical and physical winger, who should be a key contributor to the Impact’s attacking trident, and Orji Okwonkwo, on loan from Bologna, who’s already showed positive signs after a few minutes of play in the last preseason game.
Some worried about the Impact’s last line of defense, but we can unequivocally confirm that these doubts can be put to rest. The Impact is the MLS team with the most depth in central defense, with Zakaria Diallo, the undisputed starter – whose injury right before the beginning of the 2018 season is probably the reason the Impact missed the playoffs – and candidate, in our opinion, for the league’s Defender of the Year award. There’s also Víctor Cabrera, whose qualities we know quite well, Rudy Camacho, who showed in spurts last year that he can be a key contributor, and Jukka Raitala, versatile and solid in any role he’s asked to play. On the flanks, Daniel Lovitz is unmovable, while Bacary Sagna brings serenity, experience, and a high-quality cross to the position. Zachary Brault-Guillard, the Canadian international, is looking to prove that he can be trusted in the position. Oh, and between the posts, Evan Bush is there, always evolving despite his 32 years of age. One goal allowed in five preseason games is worrisome? Yes – for the opposition’s offense.
We briefly mentioned it when talking about our central defense, but the team will be able to count on its depth in every position. Also, Rémi Garde said it himself, the team’s average has increased over the past year; the progression from young players has been remarkable. We’re thinking of Mathieu Choinière, Ken Krolicki, Shamit Shome and Clément Bayiha, who’ve all proved that they’re ready for more minutes at the highest level in North America. With a condensed schedule due to the new playoff format, the entire team should have a role to play in 2019.
This old cliché remains of vital importance in a professional team. But very seriously, chemistry and a thirst for victory will allow this team to emerge from the season’s difficult moments unscathed. The balance of experience and youth seems perfectly dosed in Rémi Garde’s group.