Nick Sabetti: The pressure is now on for Marsch and the Impact

With the team's expansion tag having expired, Impact president Joey Saputo said on Wednesday that he expects the Montreal Impact to make the playoffs next year.

The Montreal Impact’s expansion season has officially come to an end. It hasn’t been a disaster of a season and nor has it been sensational either, but it’s been positive. The Impact were competitive and, really, that was the objective from the start.

But now on to season two, and the message from Joey Saputo at a club press conference on Wednesday was loud and clear: “We don’t want to be close to the playoffs, we want to qualify for the playoffs.”

It won’t be easy.

What was initially considered a considerably weakened Eastern Conference has progressively grown stronger throughout the year. Its true that the Impact have made lots of headway throughout the season, but the team will need much further improvement if it wants to be in next year’s postseason, especially as other teams in the Eastern Conference will look to strengthen themselves in the offseason as well.

Preparations for next season are already in full swing and nine players from this season have already been confirmed for next year: Patrice Bernier, Davy Arnaud, Marco Di Vaio, Alessandro Nesta, Matteo Ferrari, Nelson Rivas, Felipe, and Troy Perkins.

The priority for the transfer market will be creative players: one on the outside of midfield, one in the center of midfield, and probably one up front as well.

Those type of players aren’t particularly easy to find however – at least not in a general MLS price range – but Saputo did admit that the team was prepared to pursue another designated player if need be.

Certainly the Impact will be hoping to find a player or two during their postseason training camp in Bologna and Florence, which begins next week. Though Saputo did say that the club was “scouting abroad, without targeting a particular market,” it’s clear that the club has a natural preference for players in the Italian peninsula and there will likely be more on the way in January.

Rumours have surfaced in recent weeks about apparent tension between the Italian and American players in the squad, but Saputo insisted that there was none of the kind, saying the team was united and that there’s a good feeling among the players.

“I’ve read and heard certain rumors and I would like to tell you that there is no discord between our players or coaches on this team,” Saputo stated. “Yes, there will always be difference of opinions, especially in the heat of the action, but all of our players respect the club and have respect for one another.”

Getting serious players that would comport themselves in a professional manner was certainly a key component in the Impact’s selection process and that’s an area where Marsch and the Impact have done quite well.

Marsch’s place at the helm was never in doubt this year. Barring a disastrous season of say a mere five or six wins, he was always going to get a shot at a second season. But if the Impact fail to make the playoffs again next year, he will likely not get another chance.

And Marsch knows that. The pressure is on.