Skip to content

Questions to answer in MLS preseason camp: Montreal Impact

Jan 24, 2013, 8:00 AM EST

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. Report: Chelsea join Manchester United in chase for Nathaniel Clyne

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:37 AM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Will Clyne stay at Saints or move to one of the big boys?

  2. Toronto FC unveil new primary jersey for 2015 MLS season

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:37 PM EST

    Photo credit: MLSsoccer.com Photo credit: MLSsoccer.com

    It’s red — lots of red — and “All For One.” Do you dig it?

  3. Ahead of Capital One Cup final, Thibaut Courtois admits he’s never been in a PK shootout

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    Petr Cech has been in plenty of PK shootouts for Chelsea, but Courtois has never done it.

  4. CONCACAF Champions League: D.C. United battered by Alajualense, 5-2

    Feb 26, 2015, 10:32 PM EST

    Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United

    *sigh* Another MLS team gets hammered in CCL, and we’re (probably) down to one last hope.

  5. Keller, Hejduk, Conrad headline 13 new eligibles for National Soccer HOF

    Feb 26, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Kasey Keller & Frankie Hejduk, USMNT Kasey Keller & Frankie Hejduk, USMNT

    It’s a who’s-who of USMNT, USWNT and MLS stars who are now eligible for the U.S. Soccer HOF.

  6. World War II bomb found, defused near Borussia Dortmund stadium

    Feb 26, 2015, 6:51 PM EST

    Signal Iduna Park, Borussia Dortmund Getty Images

    A 550-pound British bomb was found near Dortmund’s stadium on Thursday. That’s a little bit crazy.

  7. Chelsea signs five-year, $300-million Yokohama jersey sponsorship deal

    Feb 26, 2015, 6:13 PM EST

    Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea FC Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea FC

    Five years, $300 million — the going rate for prime real estate on a top PL team’s jersey.

  8. Europa League roundup: Tottenham, Liverpool out; Everton, La Liga sides advance

    Feb 26, 2015, 5:05 PM EST

    Romelu Lukaku, Everton FC Getty Images

    The Premier League’s nightmare week in European competition continued on Thursday.

  9. Besiktas 1-0 (1-1) Liverpool: Arslan makes, Lovren misses final PK as Reds go out of Europe

    Feb 26, 2015, 3:44 PM EST

    Atiba Hutchinson, Joe Allen AP

    It took kicks to settle the UEFA Europa League tie between Besiktas and Liverpool after both clubs won 1-0 home legs.

  10. Fiorentina ousts Tottenham from the Europa League with 2-0 win at the Stadio Artemio Franchi

    Feb 26, 2015, 2:59 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-FIORENTINA Getty Images

    The shots may’ve been even, but Spurs had 2/3 possession for much of the night.

  11. Scottish teen star gets in trouble for throwing muffins at McDonald’s

    Feb 26, 2015, 2:36 PM EST

    Hearts v Hibs - Scottish Championship Getty Images

    Cummings’ manager is backing him up, too, and the Scotland U-19 forward has 11 goals in 23 matches for Hibs this season.

  12. Strike season? Real Salt Lake owner calls free agency “go nowhere conversation”

    Feb 26, 2015, 1:46 PM EST

    Chivas USA v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    If you believe the words from Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen on local radio last night, you probably want to prepare for a work stoppage in MLS.

  13. Serbian player threatened at gunpoint after missing late penalty

    Feb 26, 2015, 12:42 PM EST

    http://www.novosti.rs/ http://www.novosti.rs/

    It had to be a terrifying incident for the team, let alone the player.

  14. Pontius, DC United represent lone U.S. team left in CONCACAF Champions League

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:50 AM EST

    DC United v Real Salt Lake - 2013 U.S. Open Cup Final Getty Images

    Kickoff is at 8pm ET, with the return leg in DC on Wednesday.

  15. Southampton’s Koeman calls winter World Cup wrong, quips “Maybe I’ll be English manager”

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:05 AM EST

    Koeman AP

    Koeman, like many of us, thinks it’s a little wild to keep talking about 2022 in 2015.

  16. Cancer-battler Jonas Gutierrez set to return to Newcastle United side this weekend

    Feb 26, 2015, 10:16 AM EST

    chroniclelive.co.uk chroniclelive.co.uk

    Gone for now is the trademark ponytail due to the cancer battle, but Jonas’ spirit has been and will be a big boost for the Magpies.

  17. Sponsor-altered Liverpool crest alienates some Reds fans; Apology issued

    Feb 26, 2015, 9:25 AM EST

    LiverpoolLogo

    Dunkin’ Donuts has issued an apology after their doctoring of the Liverpool logo offended some fans.

  18. Is Manchester United legend Paul Scholes in line for a managerial job in League One?

    Feb 26, 2015, 8:39 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-SALFORD CITY-CLASS OF 92 Getty Images

    Scholes, 40, would be a high-profile move for the Latics, and Oldham says it won’t rush to hire a replacement.

  19. Back in MLS, Juan Agudelo works to regain his USMNT trajectory

    Feb 26, 2015, 7:48 AM EST

    agudeloHS2015

    He was without a team for a while, exploring other European clubs before deciding to return to New England.

  20. WATCH: This Asian Champions League goal was struck really, really well

    Feb 25, 2015, 11:00 PM EST

    Al-Nahda_Badge

    The midfielder takes a quick dribble and lashes a left-footed shot that pings off the inside of the net and rockets around the back.