Nick Sabetti: Montreal Impact not a playoff team without proper reinforcements

With a lack of depth and a stronger Eastern Conference to contend with, Montreal will need to add some new pieces to its roster or risk missing out on the postseason.
Matteo Ferrari has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind, and this week was no different. 

At the start of the Montreal Impact’s training camp under new head coach Frank Klopas, Ferrari voiced his concern about his team not making a splash on the transfer front this offseason.

“I think we need to improve,” Ferrari told TVA Sports. “Right now, if I think about [last year’s team], I think that we are not as good. We lost key players and we did not replace anybody.”

Ferrari is surely not alone in having this concern. 

After the departures of Alessandro Nesta, Davy Arnaud, Daniele Paponi and Andrea Pisanu, the Impact have yet to sign a single player and there are several positions that need to be addressed.

Signing an attacking player is the most pressing need as Marco Di Vaio and Andrew Wenger are the only two forwards on the roster. And it is unlikely that Di Vaio will be able to repeat his 20-goal tally of last season, especially since he will miss the first three games of the season due to suspension.

The left midfield position, which was an area of glaring weakness for Montreal in 2013, hasn’t undergone any changes, except for the fact that Pisanu is no longer available.  Relying on one of Andres Romero, who was largely disappointing last season, or Blake Smith to being a difference maker, especially in a 4-2-3-1 where the wingers are expected to be very dynamic and capable of contributing offensively on a consistent basis, is asking a lot.

Guatemalan attacking midfielder Marco Pappa, a former player of Klopas' who recently signed with MLS after a stint in the Netherlands, could fit very nicely on the left-hand side, but acquiring him through the allocation order will be difficult, as the Seattle Sounders retain the first position while the Impact are down the list in eighth.

But the real problem isn’t so much that the Impact wouldn’t be able to field a strong starting 11, but that beyond the first 11 there aren’t really any players that can come off the bench and make a difference. The Impact lack quality depth in just about every position except goalkeeper. Today, their second lineup would look something like this: Evan Bush, Maxim Tissot, Wandrille Lefèvre, Karl Ouimette, Eric Miller, Blake Smith, Collen Warner, Calum Mallace, Zakaria Messoudi, Sanna Nyassi and Andrew Wenger.

That should ring alarm bells.

And then to say that the Impact have a strong foundation, which was a repeated suggestion at training camp this week, is simply not true; not when the team doesn’t even have a reliable pair of center backs that can play for most of a season without getting injured.

Another fact that should be a cause for concern is that the Eastern Conference is going to be much stronger this season. Other teams that missed out on the playoffs last year, like D.C. United, Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union, all come into this season having significantly reinforced their rosters.

The Impact only just made the playoffs last season, and without the right signings they will miss out this year. 

Klopas has said that the club is looking to bring in one or two new players before the start of the season. A new forward that can help Di Vaio in the goal scoring department and a quality third option in the center of midfield (because when one of Patrice Bernier or Hernan Bernardello are missing the Impact tend to be very poor) would be a good place to start.

At last year’s training camp the Impact were a confident bunch, certain that they were among the better teams in MLS. By contrast, this year’s team is more bearish about its prospects. The cataclysmic end to last season still weighs on their minds. They know fully well that they need help, and that might be the biggest reason why it needs to be given to them.