Despite some surprise picks, Goal.com’s Nick Sabetti says the Montreal Impact addressed their roster needs and made the most of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis.
If there’s one word that describes the Montreal Impact, it’s not ‘commonplace’.
Need a refresher? Well, they’re called the ‘Impact’. They picked Brian Ching in their first selection of the MLS expansion draft even after he had threatened to retire if he was picked. They parted ways with head coach Jesse Marsch after a very positive expansion season. And now they’re going the historically unsuccessful European route, and just about everybody across MLS is crying ‘wolf’.
The Impact were at it again on Thursday in Indianapolis as they left a lot of pundits perplexed with some surprise selections in the MLS SuperDraft.
They were, however, looking to satisfy their positional needs in the draft and with the acquisitions of left winger Blake Smith, forward and attacking midfielder Fernando Monge, midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo and goalkeeper Brad Stuver, they seemed to have accomplished that.
As far as club sporting director Nick De Santis is concerned, he was content with the way things went.
“We are very pleased with the selections we made today,” De Santis stated via a club press release following the draft. “We wanted to improve in certain positions and these players fit within our system well. It’s now up to them to prove what they can do and earn a spot with the team”.
Judging by the selections, it’s clear that the Impact didn’t give all that much importance to the players’ performances during the combine, because Blake didn’t impress, Monge wasn’t by any means a standout and DelPiccolo didn’t even show up – he was on trial at Eintracht Frankfurt. In any event, a couple games at the combine provide too small a sample to form an appropriate judgment of a player’s ability. The Impact already knew which players they wanted before the combine. They came prepared - and not all teams are.
Whether these players actually perform well is an unknown, of course, but the four players should add important depth to a roster that now stands at 26.
With Troy Perkins and Evan Bush already signed on, Stuver will fill up the Impact’s third and final goalkeeper spot, which means that the academy’s star goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who joins the under-21 side this year, probably won’t be ascending to the first team any time soon. But De Santis explained that the Impact simply want to give Creapeau more time with the youth setup, which is understandable considering he’s only 18 years old.
DelPiccolo, whose standing in the draft was certainly hampered by the fact that he opted out of the combine in order to join Eintracht Frankfurt on trial, is a talented two-way midfielder who would fit into the Impact’s setup nicely. And I say “would” because if Frankfurt decides to sign DelPiccolo following the termination of his trial next week, Saputo and De Santis will have some convincing to do. If it comes to that, how about some free German lessons from new Swiss coach Marco Schällibaum?
Selecting Monge in the 18th pick of the first round took just about everybody by surprise, and I would think that the Impact probably could have waited to the second round to acquire him, but in terms of the type of player the Impact were looking for, he fits the bill. The Impact don’t have any player in the team with the characteristics of a second forward. Monge can also play as an attacking midfielder, which is useful considering Felipe is just about all the Impact have in that role.
With Montreal likely playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, one that requires only one striker, Monge might have a hard time finding the field. But when the Impact decide to switch to a two striker setup – and they will at some point – he’ll definitely come in handy, because Marco Di Vaio and Andrew Wenger are too similar to be effective together.
The Impact’s first pick in the first round, Blake Smith, is the club’s most promising and interesting selection. De Santis said prior to the draft that this pick would be taken up by a player who could come into the side right away and give the club good minutes. However, there’s one problem: the Impact already had five wingers in the roster fighting for only two positions. With Blake now in the fray, it is likely that one or perhaps even two of the club’s present wingers will be leaving shortly or at some point this year, especially with very promising academy wingers like Maxime Tissot and Zakaria Messoudi edging closer to a professional contract.
Coming in with 13 assists from last season’s NCAA campaign, Smith is definitely a skilled winger, the best available in the draft, but one characteristic he brings to the Impact which they were in dire need of – especially on the flanks – is athleticism: he was one of the very top athletes in the draft.
The Impact were a little disappointed to not have been able to trade up a few spots and acquire Canadian midfielder Kyle Bekker, but Toronto FC were never going to budge. They did the best they could. They got a very promising player in Blake who can be a help from day one, and took some gambles on the rest. With the draft’s continuously dwindling talent pool, that’s the best way to go about it.