The Montreal Impact may have depth in several positions, but with the team moving to a 4-2-3-1 formation, it suddenly looks thin in the center of midfield.
When it was announced earlier this week that Montreal Impact defender Matteo Ferrari would be out for four to six weeks with a thigh injury and that forward Bernardo Corradi would likely miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury, it should have felt like the end of the world, but it didn’t.
The Impact have alternatives.
In the center of defence, Shavar Thomas and Hassoun Camara have proven themselves to be solid replacements and with Andrew Wenger, Sanna Nyassi, Justin Braun, and Eduardo Sebrango, the Impact have plenty of options in the attack as well. Designated player Marco Di Vaio will be available to play on June 27, giving Montreal another weapon up top.
For an expansion side, the depth that the Impact possess is, to say the least, impressive, and following the Impact’s 4-1 home win against the Seattle Sounders last Saturday, head coach Jesse Marsch was in high praise of both the quality and quantity of the players at his disposal.
“I look out on the bench and I see Bernardo, I see Sanna [Nyassi], I see Sinisa [Ubiparipovic], I see Lamar [Neagle], and there’s guys that don’t even make the 18 that I think are good players,” said Marsch in the postgame press conference. “I think we got a good compliment of players on this roster and now, going through these next games, I've got to manage it correctly and keep pushing each other to be ready.”
But things aren’t so rosy in the center of the park where the Impact only have four central midfielders on the roster - Felipe, Collen Warner, Patrice Bernier and Ubiparipovic.
As Marsch now favours a 4-2-3-1 formation over a 4-4-2 formation – clearly the team performs a whole lot better in the former - the Impact are playing with three players in the center of midfield instead of two and with Felipe, Warner and Bernier already on the field, the Impact’s only alternative is Ubiparipovic.
With seven games to play in 22 days, the only way Marsch will be able to give his players in the middle a break will be mostly by changing the formation entirely, which is what we saw against Seattle at Saputo Stadium on Saturday and also against Chivas USA on Wednesday. While switching to a 4-4-2 against the Sounders with 15 minutes left, up 3-1 and playing against ten men was largely inconsequential, changing to a 4-4-2 against the Goats midweek proved a complete disaster, as the Impact would slowly lose its grip on the game, eventually concede a second goal, and finish the night with a loss.
If the 4-2-3-1 formation is the way forward, then the Impact will need to bolster the midfield in July when the transfer window opens, because, as things stand, the formation isn’t sustainable.
And as much as sporting director Nick De Santis has often spoken about potentially signing a high profile central midfielder, the trio of Felipe, Warner and Bernier already brings a considerable amount of quality to the team.
At this point, what the Impact needs is simply another body or two.
Nick Sabetti covers the Montreal Impact for Goal.com Canada.