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.