The Montreal Impact Academy capped off a very encouraging year on Tuesday as some of its players were protagonists in a resounding 4-1 win against Fiorentina’s prestigious academy.
FLORENCE, Italy – As far as soccer goes in the Italian peninsula, if one wants to make a good impression, there’s no better place than Coverciano, the headquarters of the Italian soccer federation.
There, on Tuesday afternoon, the Montreal Impact not only beat Fiorentina’s Academy squad 4-1, but also thoroughly outplayed them as well. The players that featured for Fiorentina were 3-5 years younger than the players of the Under-23 side that Mauro Biello put out from the start for the Impact, and that kind of age gap certainly played into Montreal’s favour as the visitors bossed the game physically, but the younger Impact players definitely gave a good account of themselves.
Academy midfielder Zakaria Messoudi was a standout player in the match as the Fiorentina players had a very difficult time containing him. When he’s on his game, Messoudi’s technical ability is a step above and he’s definitely on track to getting himself a professional contract in the near future – hopefully with the Impact.
Recently promoted to the first team, Karl Ouimette also had an excellent game. The centre back has barely found space in the Impact’s starting lineup this past season, but he certainly showed on Tuesday that he has what it takes, as he barely put a foot wrong all game and successfully played many good balls – short and long – out of the back, a quality you don’t generally see in North American defenders.
Of the many uncertainties regarding the Impact’s technical staff for next season, one man who will certainly be keeping his place is Academy head coach Philippe Eullaffroy. From the positive performance against Fiorentina, to the successful camp in France and the second place finish in the CSL, the Academy has had an excellent year. With the little time and resources that Eullaffroy has had at his disposal, he’s done an exceptional job.
Immediately following Tuesday’s friendly, Eullaffroy told Goal.com that he didn’t think the Impact Academy was too far away from even some of Europe’s finest academies. Considering the performances of this past year, it isn’t by any means an outrageous claim.
The four on trial
Three of the four players that joined the Impact on trial earlier this week, got a chance to showcase their skills against the Fiorentina Academy on Tuesday, coming on in the last 30 minutes. Nicolás Córdova played in the centre of midfield, Henrique Cornelio Bem was also in the midfield but on the right side, while Oussama Essabr played up front in the attack.
Though they weren’t up against the toughest of foes, the game certainly gave a good sense of the players’ qualities.
Córdova , a veteran of Italy’s second division, looked sharp. The Chilean international’s two foremost qualities are his ability to really pick a pass – his range of passing is excellent – and ability on set pieces. The Impact have been essentially anonymous in both these areas this season – the vertical game has been very poor and the team has been largely ineffective on set pieces.
So Córdova could be a nice addition. He’s a player that could come into the side and make an immediate impact, and without costing all that much either. On the other hand, he’s 33 years old, and wouldn’t last more than another season or two. There’s also the risk that he could have a hard time adjusting to the physicality of MLS. But there’s no question that he’s got quality.
Cornelio Bem didn’t have too much of an impact on the game. He played on the outside of midfield, but he doesn’t really have the pace, or the technical ability for the position. The Brazilian is primarily a defensive-minded midfielder and the Impact already have enough of those.
Essabr is probably the most interesting of the four players on trial. Big things were expected for the Moroccan, who came up through the ranks at Juventus. But after some unsuccessful loan spells to sides in Serie B and Serie C, the 23-year-old has failed to live up to his promise. Perhaps a change of scenery is just what he needs.
Similar in stature to Mircea Ilcu, with his pace and dribbling Essabr could bring a different dimension to the Impact attack. In the 25 minutes he was on the pitch, he also held up the ball pretty well and never missed a pass either, some of which were quite difficult to make too. He also has the characteristics to play as an attacking winger, and would, on the whole, be a significant upgrade over Miguel Montano, who will not be returning next season.
Andrea Pisanu is the fourth player on trial. The winger’s career has been plagued by numerous injuries and the Impact already have enough injury prone players in their roster. Adding another wouldn’t help.
Nick Sabetti covers the Montreal Impact for Goal.com Canada, and he is currently following the team on its Italian journey.