Canadian MLS Clubs Still Have Holes to Fill – Part 3: Montreal Impact

The final instalment of our look at Canadian MLS clubs takes a look at goings on in Montreal…

There is one single name sure to be casting a shadow over the Impact this year, and that is Didier Drogba.

The Ivorian proved to be a boon for the club with his reputation and pedigree both on and off the pitch.

That said, a refusal to be named to the subs list late last season, coupled with a decline in productivity, saw things sour slightly before Drogba decided to leave La Belle Province after the Impact were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Despite numerous departures (Harry Shipp to Seattle, Johan Venegas to Minnesota, Donny Toia to Orlando), it will be the absence of Drogba that is likely felt the most from a supporter’s standpoint.

Most interestingly, LAD (Life After Didier) should bring more consistency to the Impact’s style of play, with coach Mauro Biello tending to employ a direct approach with Drogba on the pitch, to mixed results.

Montreal will again lean heavily on 2016 MLS All-Star Ignacio Patti to lead the attack, having staved off Boca Juniors’ attempt to pry the Argentinian away. Patti proved worth his weight in gold last season, notching 17 league goals (up from 9 in 2015), and frequently sporting the captain’s armband.

Bolstering the midfield is the arrival of Swiss International, Blerim Dzemaili, from FC Bologna (a club also owned by Joey Saputo). Dzemaili, a starter in each of Switzerland’s Euro 2016 matches and a regular in Bologna’s starting eleven, is set to complete his move to Canada in early July.

While it is easy to understand why club owner Saputo sought a DP in the offseason to replace Drogba, what is most surprising is the Impact’s failure to address a lack of depth on the backline.

Montreal’s -4 goal differential in 2016 was the worst of any club that qualified for the MLS playoffs, and things get very thin on the depth chart once one gets past regulars Laurent Ciman, Hassoun Camara, Victor Cabrera, and Ambroise Oyongo (who recently became the first-ever active MLS player to hoist the AFCON).

Donny Toia, who saw bushels of playing time at left back, could prove to be a mammoth loss.

The only addition to the corps is Chris Duvall, who never figured in as a regular with New York Red Bulls through the last 3 seasons.

If all remains status quo in camp, the Impact might very well be participants in many a high scoring match in 2017.

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Canadian MLS Clubs Still Have Holes to Fill – Part 2: Vancouver Whitecaps

Today, our continuing look at the pain points of each Canadian MLS club shifts westward, as we examine goings on in Vancouver…

The ‘Caps seem to have faced more departures this offseason than arrivals.

Like TFC, Vancouver shored up their backline by acquiring Sheanon Williams through a trade with Houston. Having started 184 of 192 appearances over his 7-year MLS career, the Boston, Massachusetts native will add stability at right back.

The club parted ways with Masato Kudo, who returned to his native Japan, and recently completed the transfer of Kianz Froese to German club Fortuna Düsseldorf.

The Caps also will be without the services of Pedro Morales, the club’s all-time regular season assists leader (22) and second all-time in goals (25). These are large footy boots to fill, and The ‘Caps will have a hard time ever finding the DP signing to do the trick.

Enter 23-year old Peruvian International, Yordy Reyna, arriving from FC Red Bull Salzburg for 2017. Reyna is exactly the type of player more MLS clubs should be attempting to add to their roster.

Young, hard-working, and a proven talent at a high level of competition, Reyna looks set to add attacking depth to a Whitecaps squad that, minus an all-out central forward and their most storied playmaker, will be looking for a source of goals.

That said, Reyna, along with returnees Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado, should slot more ably into an attacking midfield role, or, at best, as a second forward.

So, where does the club sit without a pure, proven central forward on the roster?

Manneh, fresh off his first stint with the USMNT camp before reporting to the Whitecaps’ camp in Wales, looks to have recovered well from the foot surgery that prematurely ended his season last summer.

He recently played in a withdrawn role behind Hurtado in two preseason matches, with his performances well-received.

When asked, though, coach Carl Robinson advised fans not to see this as a sign this being his first-choice, telling Sportsnet, “It’s a different role for him. There was nothing in it. It was strictly to do with getting my players, the first 45 minutes who I wanted to get minutes. He can play there, he can play as a No. 9, he can play as a 10, he can play as an 11 or a 7.”

With a CONCACAF Champions League match at NYRB on February 22 fast-approaching, here’s hoping Robinson finds his secret sauce.

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Canadian MLS Clubs Still Have Holes to Fill – Part 1: TFC

With MLS camps in full swing and a new season just around the corner, things have been relatively quiet with each of the three Canadian MLS clubs, leaving fans waiting with bated breath for a signing or two to address some pressing needs.

The Gaffers take a look and assess, as only we do.

Today, in our first installment, we look at MLS Cup Runners Up, Toronto FC…

The most notable, and newsworthy exit in The Big Smoke was Will Johnson, who chose to depart for Orlando, but not before firing away some parting shots. Johnson struggled to find a place in the squad in the latter weeks of the regular season, and made known his disdain with not being guaranteed a starting role.

He’s since expressed regret over the comments, with Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney responding in kind in mid-January.

“It’s a deep midfield so in the end I can’t promise anyone any specific amount of minutes or any specific role in the grand scheme of things,” Vanney told The Toronto Star. “I fully understand Will’s position and interest in wanting to be a bigger part of an organization and having a better sense of what his role is going to be day in and day out. I would be no different if I was at the time period he’s at in his career.”

The midfield is indeed deep in Toronto, but do they have the player to plug in behind Seba, Altidore, and Tosaint Ricketts? 

Jozy Altidore may not believe so, as quoted by John Molinaro in a Tweet from December 13, 2016, “To be completely honest, I think we could use a little bit more of a creative player [in midfield or on wing].”

Recent signings include returning midfielder Benoit Cheyrou, who will surely continue to bring his experience and big-game performances this season (any Montreal Impact fan will remember the dagger from extra time in last season’s Eastern Conference Final).

TFC have also added Congolese International defender Chris Mavinga from Russia’s Rubin Kazan. Left-footed Mavinga can play as either a left back or in the centre of the backline, and looks to be versatile if Vanney chooses to stick with his favoured 3-5-2 formation. While unable to break into Liverpool’s first team a few years ago, Mavinga’s experience in several top-flight leagues should definitely be an asset.

But back to that creative player. No addition to the roster would seem to fit the bill.

Enter Jay Chapman, 23-year old Homegrown Academy product from Brampton, Ontario. Chapman made his first team debut in 2015, and appeared in 18 games last season (9 as a starter).

Several pundits and sportswriters around the club feel Chapman may be the answer. As does he, himself, telling Sportsnet earlier this month, “In college, I played as a box-to-box playmaker. I view myself as a creative midfielder. Last year when I got the opportunity to play as an attacking midfielder, I think it benefitted the team a lot. I was able to get a run of games and really make the position my own, so I think I could fill that role full-time.”

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Happy Canadian Thanksgiving from The Young Gaffers

Jason_Adam_beers_Dortmund4This week, in honour of Canadian Thanksgiving, The Young Gaffers talk about what we’re most thankful for (there are hints hidden in this photo). Don’t forget to catch the new episode on Wednesday! In the meantime, why not ease into your turkey coma with some past episodes of our podcast playing softly in the background. Click here for the full archive.

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Saturday’s a good day for a rip bud…friggin’ RIGHTS!

The Young Gaffers can’t be all business all the time. So after recording a podcast up in the Great White North, sometimes we’ve gotta knock back a few molsons and have a dart. B.RICH knows how to Give’r and we recommend this highly educational video. He’s got our vote for Prime Minister of Canada.

B.RICH on…

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