Patrice Bernier vs Sporting KC
USA Today

Montreal Impact eye midfield evolution: "We have to open more space"

MONTREAL – As Patrice Bernier said after the Impact’s 2-0 loss in Kansas City last Saturday, maybe the team needs to find new ideas, a Plan B for their through-the-middle approach. Or could it be that they just to fine-tune Plan A?

A month into the 2013 season, Eastern Conference-leading Montreal have worked the percentages well: nine teams have scored more goals per game than them (1.2), but only one, FC Dallas, has put more of its overall shots on target than Montreal. And a mere four teams have conceded fewer goals per game than Marco Schällibaum’s side (0.8).

All of that points to Montreal being a work in progress that passes the test defensively. And in order for them to become the all-conquering team they aspire to be, assistant coach Mauro Biello feels that the Impact need no revolution; simply an evolution.

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“When you play three in the middle, the opposition looks to clog that area,” Biello told reporters after practice on Wednesday. “So you’ve got to play quickly and know how to play out of tight spaces. When things don’t go so well, doing that gets more difficult. That’s what we have to work on: one- or two-touch soccer in the midfield to open more space.”

For Biello, part of the solution is quite simple: the new Impact midfield three (Felipe, Davy Arnaud and Bernier) need some more playing time together. The opportunities to adapt to each other’s style have been abundant so far: this triumvirate has started every game in 2013.

While Arnaud and Bernier have earned their fair share of plaudits since the season started, young Felipe has struggled a bit more. By his own account, the past weeks have not been the most illustrious of his career, though he does still feel minor after-effects of the sports hernia surgery he underwent late last season.

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“I have a little bit less muscle on the left side,” the Brazilian told reporters. “I have to work hard: I can’t buy muscle at the supermarket!”

Biello is nevertheless confident that Felipe will adjust perfectly to the Impact’s new system.

“Felipe works hard, he’s always ready for training and I’m sure he’ll make up for the shortcomings we’ve observed so far,” Biello said. “We fully trust him; he was one of our best players last year. Sometimes, when the system changes, you need time to adapt.”