The Montreal Impact’s 2016 season ended in a thrilling loss to rival Toronto FC in extra time of the conference finals. The entire playoff run was magical and a great way to mask the fact that 2016 was less than stellar.
Three Questions for the 2017 Montreal Impact Season
The playoff run gives Montreal fans high hopes for 2017. A road win against DC United followed by knocking off the top seeded Red Bulls would have been a great ending to 2016, but it didn’t stop there. Montreal pushed their rivals, Toronto FC, to extra time in what is arguably the best two leg series in MLS history.
What this story doesn’t tell is the fact that Montreal was plagued by inconsistency, largely due to rotation. Injuries at key positions and a lack of experienced depth force Mauro Biello to constantly tinker with the lineup.
Will Drogba be missed?
It’s hard to say losing a player the caliber of Didier Drogba won’t hurt a squad. Montreal is no exception, but the Canadian side showed they are a force without him. As long as Matteo Mancosu retains his form, Drogba’s absence will not be nearly as noticeable.
Montreal has a lot riding on Mancosu. Dominic Oduro is next in line to play center forward followed by Anthony Jackson-Hamel. Oduro’s natural position is out wide and Jackson-Hamel has little experience. Johan Venegas is not with Minnesota United and was logical long term backup before his departure.
Does Montreal have the depth to contend with injuries?
One of the major concerns for Montreal in 2016 was depth. When key players were injured, the team did not always have a suitable replacement. Several of those replacement players are no longer with the club in 2017.
Patrice Bernier, Marco Donadel, and Hernan Bernardello anchored the midfield for the entirety of the playoffs. These three together make up a formidable midfield to build Montreal’s counter attack around. Bernier, at 37, is in his final year of playing and will likely need games off. Calum Mallace has experience and is capable of filling in.
A lot of the depth hinges on the return of Andreas Romero. After suffering an ACL injury in 2015, Romero did not see action in 2016. The Argentine midfielder was a key piece of the lineup in 2015 before his injury and his full return could prove invaluable to the club.
Defensive depth has also improved with the additions of Chris Duvall and Daniel Lovitz. Montreal now has capable backups for both center back and full back and the ability to rotate players if necessary.
Can the Impact win the Eastern Conference?
The Eastern Conference is top-heavy for sure. With teams like NYC, NY Red Bulls, and Toronto FC, it’s impossible to pick a winner going into the season. The Impact have one of the strongest lineups in all of MLS and are more than capable of winning the Eastern Conference.
The Impact are one of the oldest squads in MLS averaging over 30 years of age. This experience will be crucial as they make a run towards the Eastern Conference championship. The combined experience of the squad, especially the midfield, carried the team deep into the playoffs where they look nearly unstoppable.
Coming out on top should be the goal. Montreal has three scoring threats in Ignacio Piatti, Oduro and Mancosu. These three a clinical on the counter attack, which is the preferred style of Biello’s squad. Opponents will find it hard to break through the solid defense that is protected by one of the most disruptive midfields in the league. If the defense holds, Montreal’s counter will win lots of games in 2017.