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Know The Enemy: Montreal Impact

Oh, great: another club in Blue-and-Black scrapping for a playoff spot...

MLS: Montreal Impact at Chicago Fire Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

After what happened last Saturday in San Jose, I’m a little worried that the site of another blue-and-black squad is going to induce some kind of footballing PTSD. I may be wrong, but suffering through the bombardment that was 19 shots on target and 43 overall behind a possession ratio of 25/75 should make a soccer club jittery.

Like, “too much coffee” jittery.

But in spite of this, and how the Vancouver Whitecaps have traveled across the continent for a mid-week match against a Canadian rival, there is a faint glimmer of hope for a win in the remains of this sundowning season against a Montreal Impact side suffering through their own tribulations as of late.

On the pitch, the Impact have gone 2-7-1 over their last ten matches, but off it the front office has witnessed within the last week both the firing of coach Remi Garde, with the immediate hiring of former Houston Dynamo coach, Wilmer Cabrera, and the resignation of VP of Technical Development and club mainstay, Nick De Santis. That’s a lot of turmoil for a club still fighting for a playoff spot.

But the important takeaway for Wednesday is that Montreal is still fighting and it would be naive to think that the team is incapable of performing. Their form has certainly dropped as of late, but this is still a club capable of getting results, such as the 4-0 pasting they laid on second-place Philadelphia in late July.

With that in mind, we reached out to Paul Vance of Mount Royal Soccer for a bit of insight into what’s been going on with the Impact lately and what to expect Wednesday night. Thanks again, Paul!

Ignacio Piatti usually performs very well against the Whitecaps, with 3 goals and 2 assists in four matches against Vancouver, but with his fitness having been a concern this season, who do you envision being the focal point of the Impact’s attack on Wednesday?

The focal point for the attack is Bojan Krkic (29), the recent signing, who played for Stoke City last season, and includes in his CV, Barcelona, Roma, AC Milan and Ajax.

He played 90 mins for the first time since leaving Stoke in April on Saturday evening against Toronto FC (he scored his first goal for the club that night too). He will form a double spearhead with Maxi Urruti, who has struggled to score this season. Only two goals, and the only time he’s ever scored at Stade Saputo , he was playing for the Portland Timbers. That tells a tale in itself. Urruti puts in a shift, closing down, and covering a lot of ground, but a goalscorer he is not.

Marc Dos Santos will be well aware of Bojan and I’m sure he’ll have a plan to starve him of the ball.

Saphir Taider is the top scorer this season, however he tends to strike from midfield with late runs into the box or from penalties. He could be more effective if surrounded by better talent, but ends up forced to work too hard and it takes away from his game and potential effectiveness.

Young Finn Lassi Lappalainen (20) has two braces in two home MLS games so far. Plays wide left and is pacy, so he’s also a potential danger, as is Orji Okwonkwo on the other flank, if fit. He wasn’t used on Saturday, probably with Wednesday evening in mind.

Of the two recent personnel changes, the firing of Remi Garde and the resignation of Nick De Santis, which strikes you as the bigger surprise? Will either departure prove to be a hindrance over the club’s remaining six matches?

They were both surprises, but maybe the De Santis one was more shocking, simply because he was so close to (owner) Joey Saputo. You can understand why Garde has gone, purely on recent results, but the dismissal has split the fanbase, which has not been encouraged by the Frenchman’s replacement in Wilmer Cabrera. Everyone seems to want to give Cabrera a chance though, so the crowd will be behind him.

The De Santis departure will have no bearing whatsoever on how the team performs from here on in, and in fact it had not previously, either. He was not involved in team affairs, only really recruitment.

The Garde dismissal might, however. Simply the timing is questionable at this stage of the season. Many still think Garde would have succeeded, and his critics feel that IMFC will now play a more expansive game under Cabrera, but frankly I wonder if they are good enough to do this successfully.

In your opinion, which player or players need to improve their performance for the Impact to jump into 7th place and qualify for the playoffs?

Evan Bush, after a great season in 2018, has not looked confident since mid-season, but then again the defence has not been one any goalkeeper would relish playing behind, especially when it comes to set-pieces.

Generally the defence must do better. Rudy Camacho has not lived up to expectations since joining from Beveren-Waas 18 months ago. His level needs to improve for MLS. Camacho was out with injury last weekend, and if Rod Fanni’s paperwork is finalized and is declared fit, he just may get the nod to play against Vancouver.

In midfield IMFC has struggled, too. They have been too lightweight. Shamit Shome, after some good performances this season has gone off the boil. At this stage of his development it would have been reasonable to see him appear in maybe half the games this season, but he’s almost been ever-present. Ken Krolicki is also a good young player, but one with too much responsibility on his shoulders. Not quite ready to mix it with the top MLS midfielders. Neither man is likely to play should Samuel Piette be declared fit.

Up front, despite his industry, more goals are needed from Urruti.