The Montreal Impact who begin their first season in MLS play in a few short months, have assembled a squad that will compete from day one. They have gotten talent from numerous locations: players from their NASL team last season, the MLS expansion draft, the MLS Superdraft, trades and from soccer free agents all around the world. While there have been rumors circulating about a designated player, nothing has been announced from the team on that front.
On August 10, 2011 Jesse Marsch was given the reigns as head coach of the Impact. Since that day, he has talked about making a defensive minded, tough squad.
In an email interview with Taylor Twellman, he seemed to love everything Marsch and the Impact have done up to this point and feel they can contend right away. “Expectations should be good especially with how Jesse is building the team from the back to up front,” Twellman said. “His experience from playing [as] part of two expansion franchises to now coaching one will definitely help. ”
Marsch’s current roster compliments the sediments and because of it, I will start my roster breakdown explaining the goalies and defenders.
Goalies: Donovan Ricketts, Evan Bush and Greg Sutton.
Ricketts is the sure fire starter out of this bunch. He brings a veteran presence who has been hampered by injuries throughout the past couple seasons. In 2009, he helped the Galaxy to the MLS Cup Finals (but couldn’t finish the game due to injury), in 2010 he won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and he didn’t play most of the 2011 season (due to injury). In summary, when he is “on his game and healthy” he is as good as any ‘keeper in the league.
I like Bush and Sutton as well. Bush is only 24 years old and has experience playing in front of the Impact fans. He has been with the team for years (through the ups-and-downs of their NASL trek) and I think he will one day replace Ricketts, because of injury or when Ricketts career is done. Here is an interview I did with Bush in December of 2011.
Defenders: Nelson Rivas, Hassoun Camara, Bobby Burling, Tyson Wahl, Andrew Wenger, Shavar Thomas, Zarek Valentin, Gerson Mayen and Aaron Schoenfeld.
I like the mix of young and old on the defensive side of the ball here. Players like Rivas, Camara, Burling and Thomas are 27 years are older. While players such as Valentin, Wenger, Mayen, Schoenfeld and Garcia are between 20-22 years old.
Veterans like Rivas (has played for Inter Milan in Serie A), Burling (has been a solid defensive force in the MLS for awhile) and Wahl (has had a great time building up the Sounders team from their expansion days) all bring great leadership to the table. To me, that’s an invaluable trait to have when building a team from the ground up.
As for the youngsters, Valentin (forth overall pick in 2011 MLS Superdraft by Chivas USA) and Wenger (first overall pick in 2012 MLS Superdraft by the Impact) are the best friends. Valentin pushed hard for the club to take Wenger first overall and it probably paid off. It is still way too early to tell where exactly Wenger play professional, as he dominated pretty much any position he played in high school and college. The Impact list him as a defender on their team website’s roster.
One last thing I love about the mix of defenders is the height they possess: Burling: 6’5’’ – Schoenfeld: 6’4’’ – Camara: 6’2’’ – Wahl: 6’2’’
Midfielders: Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Justin Mapp, Jeb Brovsky, Collen Warner, Sanna Nyassi, Bryan Arguez, Davy Arnaud, Calum Mallace.
When I see this list I instantly think the following: one captain and tons of intrigue.
31-year-old Davy Arnaud is almost certainly going to be the captain of this team. He played with Sporting Kansas City from 2002 until being selected by the Impact in the expansion draft. He scored 40+ goals for KC in 240 appearances.
As for the “intrigue” part – Warner (23), Arguez (23), Brovsky (23), Nyassi (22) and Mallace (21) all bring young, athletic, energetic styles of play to the field. Twellman told me, “Mallace will prove he can play at the next level…Phenomenal draft from Marsch.”
Forwards: Brian Ching, Justin Braun, Miguel Montano, Evan James Steven Miller and Carl Howarth.
Out of the above six players, the ones I see getting the most significant minutes this year will be Ching and Braun. When Ching was selected by the Impact in the expansion draft, it caused quite a controversy around MLS circles and at a point, it sounded like Ching would never even make it to Montreal. That has since changed and his attitude has been great since coming over.
I believe Justin Braun will “breakout” in Montreal. I think he is a budding star in this league. He’s tailed 24 goals in 96 career MLS games (72 of those he has started). I think Braun and Ching could make a nice 1-2 punch up top.
As for the rest of the forward pack: Montano, James, Miller and Howarth they are all between the ages of 20-22. This will work itself out as training camps get deeper and we get closes to FirstKick. Personally, I am extremely excited to see what Montano can become. He’s a 20-year-old Colombian who came up with Seattle and was taken on loan by the Impact last season. He received very little playing time in Seattle (in regular season/postseason matches) but played a lot in their U.S. Open Cup matches along with friendlies. Even though I do not see him making a huge contribution this season, keep your eye on him in the coming years.
(image courtesy of impactmontreal.com)