Skip to content

Questions to answer in MLS preseason camp: Montreal Impact

Jan 24, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo introduces the club's first designated player Marco Di Vaio in Montreal

(Through the week we’ll look at three Major League Soccer clubs per day, considering what they need to accomplish and what questions deserve answers during preseason training camps. Opening day in MLS is March 2.)

Only one of MLS’s last seven expansion teams have reached the playoffs in their first season, a success ratio that advises first-year franchises to be modest in their expectations. Montreal was not. The mid-season acquisition of Designated Player Marco Di Vaio (pictured) symbolized the ambition owner Joey Saputo brought to Major League Soccer. When his team didn’t make the playoffs, head coach Jesse Marsch lost his job.

With talents like Felipe, Patrice Bernier, and Alessandro Nesta on the roster, new head coach Marco Schällibaum has a team that’s capable of finishing in the East’s top five. His ability to steer them into the postseason will start with himself.

  • Can Schällibaum avoid imported coach syndrome?

The premise would be xenophobic if it hadn’t become an MLS truism (and it may still be xenophobic): Coaches without experience in North America have had little success in the league. Last season, Toronto’s Aron Winter became the latest example when his Reds stumbled to a record-setting (in a bad way) start to the campaign. Hans Backe’s inability to get a talented New York team to their promised land could also be evidence of this phenomena.

The rule’s not an absolute. When Englishman Gary Smith became Colorado’s coach in the middle of the 2008 season, he’d only been working in the country for five months. Just over two years later, he was lifting the MLS Cup.

The key is adaptation. Too many coaches have tried and failed to impose the ideas they’re importing. If Schällibaum approaches his new job with an open mind, there’s no reason he can’t eventually leverage his 25 years worth of head coaching experience.

  • Can they cut down the goals?

For much of the year, Montreal played a conservative style you don’t readily associate with shipping goals, but by season’s end, only one Eastern Conference team (Toronto) had conceded more. With Nesta, Nelson Rivas, Houssan Camara, and Matteo Ferrari, the Impact should have been better at goal prevention.

A full year of Troy Perkins in goal may help, as might the season’s experience gained by 24-year-old midfielder Collen Warner. Aiming for more possession may cut down the defense’s exposure, but ultimately, Schällibaum going to have to figure out how to shave off about 20 percent of Montreal’s 51 goals allowed.

  • Will the intensity be there?

Between normal expansion woes, early season stadium renovation, the late arrivals of Di Vaio and Nesta, and injuries to players like Rivas, Ferrari and number one pick Andrew Wenger, the Impact were a much weaker team at the start of the season than they were in the final months. Unfortunately , because of schedule that front-loaded their games, their strongest point of the season coincided with a point where their competitors had matches in hand. The timing was terrible.

But those expansion woes also contributed to a lack of intensity throughout the season. The team was in “building” mode for the first half, consolidating mode in summer, and were too far back for a real chase at the end. There was a never a point where the team really kicked it into gear.

If Montreal’s going to make up the 11-point gap that kept them from fifth, they’re going to have to find a stride early in 2013 season – a stride they never found in 2012. Teams like Houston can go months while trying to figure things out, but given Montreal at their best are playoff contenders, they can’t afford to spend the earlier part of 2013 figuring out what they have.

MORE in ProSoccerTalk’s preseason camp series:

Up Next: New England Revolution

Latest Posts
  1. PHOTOS: Rayo Vallecano unveil jersey aimed to fight homophobia, pay tribute to “unsung heroes”

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    Source: @RVMOficial Source: @RVMOficial

    Spanish club reveal snazzy new jerseys with plenty of meaning behind them. Check out the rainbow inspired get-up, here.

  2. “Angel Di Maria has most talent at Manchester United,” says teammate. Agree?

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

    Despite Di Maria’s stop-start debut campaign at Old Trafford, the Argentine international still has the backing of his teammates.

  3. VIDEO: Breaking down the done deals and transfer gossip in PST Extra

    Jul 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    PST Extra - July 1

    Joe Prince-Wright dissects the big deals of the summer so far and takes a look at the latest transfer gossip doing the rounds.

  4. Liverpool complete $20 million signing of Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton

    Jul 1, 2015, 7:10 AM EDT

    Clyne Getty Images

    England international right back Clyne has signed a long-term deal at Anfield.

  5. Amid all the noise, United States coach Jill Ellis got the tactics right on Tuesday

    Jul 1, 2015, 12:12 AM EDT

    150630 Ellis Getty Images

    Jill Ellis takes a lot of criticism, but she got it right again on Tuesday, moves that got the U.S. into the World Cup final.

  6. Dos Santos rumors show us what the “core player” can mean to growing MLS

    Jun 30, 2015, 11:50 PM EDT

    Felipe Baloy, Giovani Dos Santos AP

    It’ll be an interesting story to follow as it unfolds across American soccer’s top flight.

  7. Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup roundup: Union, Orlando, Chicago move on as Charlotte bounced

    Jun 30, 2015, 11:20 PM EDT

    Orlando City's Kaka moves the ball against the Columbus Crew at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on Saturday, June 30, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. City won, 2-0, in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

    For 32 glorious minutes, we thought there was a good chance we’d see a third-tier side in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s quarterfinals.

  8. Three things learned: United States advances over Germany in epic Women’s World Cup semifinal

    Jun 30, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT

    USA v Germany: Semi-Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Getty Images

    The United States played its best soccer in two years with a victory over Germany in an epic win over Germany.

  9. Did Landon Donovan throw shade at Jurgen Klinsmann with celebratory USWNT Tweet?

    Jun 30, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT

    during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi Final match between USA and Germany at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada. Getty Images

    Either Landon Donovan is emotionally removed from last summer’s World Cup roster omission drama, or the USMNT legend just passive-aggressively lashed out at former coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

  10. Argentina 6-1 Paraguay: La Albiceleste thump Los Guaraníes to set up blockbuster final vs Chile

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:38 PM EDT

    Argentina's defender Marcos Rojo (2-L) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Paraguay during their Copa America semifinal football match in Concepcion, Chile on June 30, 2015.    AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA        (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    There will be a blockbuster final to the Copa America, as Argentina thumped Paraguay to cruise to the final.

  11. With the World Cup on the line, the USWNT gave us a vintage performance to savor

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT

    USA's midfielder Carli Lloyd (R) fights for the ball with Germany's defender Saskia Bartusiak during their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal match at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on June 30, 2015.    AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    With one brilliant 90-minute performance, the United States reasserted itself as the best team in the world.

  12. United States defeats Germany, advances to Women’s World Cup final

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    lloydscores Getty Images

    The U.S. is headed to the final for the fourth time in seven tournaments.

  13. Gervinho’s requests for helicopter, private beach end transfer interest of UAE club

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT

    gervinho AP

    The Ivorian international, 28, appeared set for a 4-year deal worth about $14.5 million.

  14. FOLLOW LIVE: Copa America — Argentina and Paraguay battle for title date with Chile

    Jun 30, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT

    Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina: Group F - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    There hasn’t been a single clean sheet kept in a match-up of these two teams since 2010. Should be a fun one.

  15. WATCH LIVE: The USWNT takes on Germany in the Women’s World Cup semifinals (Lineups, Live Stream)

    Jun 30, 2015, 6:12 PM EDT

    aaaalloyd Getty Images

    Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe return from their yellow card suspensions to play starting roles in Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup semifinal.

  16. Reports: Galaxy on verge of landing El Tri star Dos Santos as “core player”

    Jun 30, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT

    VILLARREAL, SPAIN - DECEMBER 21:  Giovani Dos Santos of Villarreal in action during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Deportivo de La Coruna at El Madrigal on December 21, 2014 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images) Getty Images

    There’s haves, have nots and have a lots, and the Los Angeles Galaxy are in the final category.

  17. Knee injury forces Brad Davis out of Gold Cup; USMNT set to add Greg Garza

    Jun 30, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 28:  Brad Davis #11 of the Houston Dynamo sits on the pitch during their game against the Colorado Rapids at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 28, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A long-standing right bone bruise will keep the Houston Dynamo midfielder out of the upcoming Gold Cup.

  18. Report: Sepp Blatter will not attend Women’s World Cup final

    Jun 30, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures as he speaks during  a press conference on May 30, 2015 in Zurich after being re-elected during the FIFA Congress. Blatter said he was "shocked" at the way the US judiciary has targeted football's world body and slammed what he called a "hate" campaign by Europe's football leaders.  AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI        (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    An incredibly-confident man who branded himself the “Godfather of women’s football” certainly won’t relish sitting this one out.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip