Impact’s early moves show promise heading into expansion season

Valentin (Getty Images)

By AVI CREDITOR

Fans of the Montreal Impact who saw their team labor through a troubling 2011 NASL campaign and at one point staged a protest against team management probably couldn't forsee the events of this past week coming.

By opting to build its nucleus around established MLS veterans and a few young players who could thrive with an opportunity in a new situation as opposed to building around pricey newcomers who aren't as familiar with the inner workings of the league, Montreal has laid the groundwork to be far more than a doormat in its expansion season in MLS.

Granted, it is still very early in the process, and a number of personnel moves have yet to be made, but a look at the current roster shows the makings of a team that can compete immediately in a wide open Eastern Conference. 

Monday's trades to acquire midfielder Davy Arnaud and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts only reinforce that point (for more on those deals, check out Ives' take on the Arnaud and Ricketts acquisitions for Fox Soccer).

Here's the Impact roster as it currently stands:

GOALKEEPERS – Donovan Ricketts, Evan Bush

DEFENDERS – Zarek Valentin, Bobby Burling, Nelson Rivas, Josh Gardner, Tyson Wahl

MIDFIELDERS – Davy Arnaud, Sanna Nyassi, Justin Mapp, Hassoun Camara, Collen Warner, Gerson Mayen, Jeb Brovsky, Bryan Arguez, Sinisa Ubiparipovic

FORWARDS – Brian Ching, Justin Braun

When the lists for the Re-Entry Draft are released on Wednesday, they'll provide even more options for the Impact to add league-tested talent to a roster already full of it.

Depth at forward and defense are obvious areas of need that the club figures to address in the Re-Entry Draft, SuperDraft and through international signings.

The Ching situation is also one worth watching, as a potential trade back to Houston looms down the line after the Dynamo's gamble of leaving their captain and forward unprotected for the expansion draft backfired. Montreal coach Jesse Marsch spoke of maximizing the expansion draft from a value standpoint, and Montreal stands to do just that by forcing Houston's hand.

The way things currently stand, though, with a stud young defender in Valentin and other nice building blocks at fullback in Wahl and Gardner; experienced centerbacks in Burling and former Inter Milan man Rivas; a seasoned piece in central midfield with Arnaud; capable and proven wingers in Mapp and Nyassi; and a potential forward star in Braun, who at this time last year was being touted as a U.S. national team candidate, Marsch and his staff have a strong foundation to work with in trying to mimic the first-year efforts of recent expansion clubs Seattle and Portland as opposed to the last-place exploits of Vancouver. 

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What do you think of the Impact's roster so far and their early moves? Do you see Montreal being able to contend in its first season?

Share your thoughts below.

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36 Responses to Impact’s early moves show promise heading into expansion season

  1. Advocate says:

    Yup, I think they’re off to a very, very good start. Given that they haven’t filled anything out using the international market, they look quite solid already. The starting 11 as their disposal currently might be weak at CB, but they could certainly step on the field and compete. Given how early it is in the process, that’s quite a statement.

  2. Felix says:

    I think there’s some nice pieces in that team. I’m still not sold on their depth in center defense, but I do like their fullbacks.

    In midfield, I think they have nice mix of creative, holding and outside players. I think they’ve done a nice job there.

    Obviously, at forward, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Braun is a promising young player, but we all know the Ching situation is completely in the air.

    But early on, with a full offseason and the SuperDraft still looming, the Impact looks to have a decent team in the works and could actually be competitive at the outset, and avoid the early issues that other expansion sides like TFC, the Whitecaps, Chivas USA and RSL (people forget how lousy they were early in their existence).

  3. JJ says:

    Are any other Canadian markets being considered good fits for 20, or even say 21-24 if we were to ever get that far?

    The three Canadian teams we have right now are great boosts for the league. Maybe Edmenton? Ottawa?

  4. Ian says:

    I love it. Even if they did take Wahl from us.

    Does anyone know off hand how many season tickets they’ve sold so far?

  5. Here: link to impactmontreal.com But this is from October and I haven’t seen any official announcements since then about how many season tickets they have sold. My bet is that now with a more fleshed out squad they will start getting a flurry of season ticket signups.

  6. Seatle Fan says:

    Impact are thugs.

  7. downintexas says:

    Que the Jesse Marsch as future USMNT coach line.

  8. bryan says:

    They’ll sign Anelka, Materazzi and Zidane!

  9. Marcus says:

    Is this some magic combination of Cue and Queue? Or is “What the Jesse Marsch?!” a new catchphrase?

    ha, just kidding around downintexas…i couldn’t resist;)

  10. JGD says:

    Though I feel you’re probably being sarcastic, don’t be too quick to rule out Anelka (or even Drogba) for that matter. Never underestimate the pull of francophone Montreal to French-speaking players. Those two would be treated like demigods in this city. Chance to play at re-vamped, soccer-specific Saputo Stadium (it’s already one of the nicest parks in N. America) is another great draw.

    Unlike in many MLS cities, soccer is already the #2 sport in MTL thanks to a heavy foreign influence (large Arab population especially.) Impact have to imagine the immense possibilities of bringing a francophone foreign star to MTL. I would not at all be surprised to see Anelka playing for the Impact next season.

  11. Marcus says:

    Branching off of this question, does anyone know if the Canadian teams in the MLS have to deal with the extra taxes that forced some NHL teams out in the 90s? Or is there something the MLS is doing to even the playing field?

  12. Knuckles says:

    I like their moves, and am eternally grateful they took Wahl from us. His set pieces were great, his on-field play was abysmal. I wish him nothing but the best in Montreal.

  13. bryan says:

    Honestly, while I was being sarcastic about getting each of them, I have no doubt Montreal will sign two of them. And from what I have read, Anelka and Materazzi seem to be the front runners. I’m almost positive Materazzi is currently in Montreal right now. If I were in charge, I would try to sign Drogba too. Like you said, that city would be great for him and Anelka. I know the agent mentioned LA specifically, but LA isn’t going to be able to sign him because Becks is going to stay (IMO). I also think, despite what they said, that Drogba would take a deal in MLS that may not be as lucrative as in Russia or the middle east. It would just depend on the city. And I think Montreal can easily be one of those cities.

  14. bryan says:

    For the record, I would NOT sign Materazzi. 38 year old punk. I’d stick with Anelka and Drogba.

  15. Phil says:

    Although I wish Anelka and especially Drogba to land in Montreal, they apparently already refused. Anelka refused an offer and Drogba seems to be aiming towards L.A. (L.A. and N.Y. seem to be the two favorite targets for most international superstars – which makes it harder for other teams to compete for major DPs).

    FYI there is a heavy foreign influence in MTL, but Arabs are far from being the biggest community. French (France), Italians and Haitians much bigger communities.

  16. Daeffy Duck says:

    “Que le Jesse Marsch!” is a new cuss phrase in Houston soccer circle

  17. Poulet says:

    Last word was that they sold above 5000 season tickets.

  18. Rev up those Revs says:

    Well those two cities are the only two Canadian cities with NASL teams. Edmonton has their’s already and Ottawa will join in 2013 and 2014. I doubt the Don will look to any Canadian city though, unless one becomes an overwhelming candidate.

  19. Olly says:

    It wasn’t so much taxes as it was the value of the Canadian dollar. The dollar was low, and NHL salaries are all paid in American dollars. With the valure of the dollars basically at par, that issues is no longer there.

  20. downintexas says:

    LOL, yeah didn’t even see that. That’s what I get for typing fast. Thanks for not being a jerk about it.

  21. hendrix says:

    I wouldn’t even bother assessing Montreal’s team at this point and possible success.

    At this point last year everyone was talking about the great team Vancouver was putting together, how Jay Demerit would anchor the central defense…. then once Hassli scored against Toronto people were thinking how they were gonna make the playoffs with an amazing set of forwards in Hassli, Camillo and Chiumiento.

    Then they finished dead last in the league. Guys, the Seattle experience is not the norm among expansion teams. Even Portland, which people see as having a good season, didn’t make the playoffs.

    I expect a bottom 5 finish for Montreal in 2012.

  22. Centralscrutinizer says:

    And real grass from the get-go at Saputo Stadium. So glad to see this.

  23. Charles says:

    I don’t disagree with you, but I think that Vancouver and Portland got crushed last year by the fact that two teams joined in the same year. Portland was a top 8 playoff team if they are the only team to join last year.

    You HAVE to access Montreal at this point….March 10th is a long ways away….What else am I going to do…work ?

  24. abc says:

    Ottawa is getting a NASL team, and rebuilding a football/soccer stadium with the hope of eventually having a MLS team. I think if Montreal is successful (which it will be), Ottawa is definitely an option once the league is over 20 team, so after places like NYC, southeast (Atl/Mia), midwest (Minny/Det/StL).

  25. fischy says:

    Unlike Portland and Vancouver, I think Montreal has done a good job at creating a defense. Given that they’re not likely to get Ching, they’ll be struggling up front. There’s some talent in the midfield, but most of it is unproven and too young or In Arnaud’s case, maybe past his prime. They’re going to need a marquee player in midfield to direct things and a couple of more strikers to join with Braun. That said, they’re off to a good start.

  26. JGD says:

    Undoubtedly. I just wanted to note the rich cultural diversity of the city and the effect that might have on soccer’s popularity. Just offered Arab population as example.

  27. JGD says:

    Agreed. Noting the strong Italian influence in the city and if they’re (Impact) looking to go that route, I’d first look at Del Piero.

  28. christian says:

    Go get Kareem Benzema!! no serious talk…Go to South America and Scout some great young playmakers from overthere..look at the success Juninho had with LA Galaxy…Seattle did the same, with Fernandez, Rosales, Montero etc etc, RSL with Morales…get players in their prime and elevate the game in MLS all together, don’t bring big name wash out players and pay them Millions and Millions of Dollars…I’d rather go and find me two Juninhos in their prime and sign them as DPS then a Drogba past his prime about to hang his boots.

  29. PD says:

    Zidane. He’s only 33.

    le hee-hee-hee, le ha-ha-ha.

    Serioulsy though, if the could swing a big french DP, they should go for Claude Makélélé. He’s a legend in French football and is still playing at a very high level (PSG in Ligue 1) I get that he’s 38 but he could totally be the keystone for building a strong defense from his favored DM position.

    There’s also Lilian Thuran the most-capped frenchman ever (plays CB, which is a position they are light on now) , but I don’t think an MLS team would splash for a defender, and they would have to splash big to get him.

  30. PD says:

    and they play in the West. I say this as a Philly fan.

  31. JGD says:

    You know they’re both retired, right? Thuram hasn’t played in 3 years.

  32. Hugo says:

    In the mold of Jesse March

  33. San says:

    He fits the Marsch mold

  34. Jim says:

    Ricketts is going to keep them in a lot of games, but they still need a lot more.

  35. Howie says:

    Either one would be great

  36. Goblin says:

    Ottawa is not a viable option for MLS. We’re talking about a tiny market–and one that has no history of supporting pro soccer.