The Columbus Crew hosts the expansion Montreal Impact. To get to know the league's newest team, Massive Report asked Mount Royal Soccer's Sofiane Benzaza to answer three questions about the team in blue.
An expansion team is always a work in progress. The Impact have had two regular season games; how has the squad come together?
Since the Expansion Draft and SuperDraft, as the team started their pre-season training, Jesse Marsch has triggered what I call now ''The Marsch Process'' . Since the beginning, the rookie MLS head coach has always insisted on building team chemistry from the get go and continue to solidify it.
Jesse Marsch probably already had a certain idea of the chemistry that he will get from the squad with the expansion players, MLS trades and European signings. He seems to had already roles ready to be filled in by players the club would get as he loves to say ''The Right Fit''.
Quickly building from the back, the addition of Donovan Ricketts, Tyson Wahl and Matteo Ferrari have been important: maybe one of the best goalkeepers in the league, a solid left back with excellent passing that is filling the Centre Back nicely and an Italian veteran that is bringing poise and a technical understanding of the game. The 3-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps was a combination of mistakes and Vancouver being a strong offensive team. But since, the defence has been solid and is focusing more on taking the game to its adversaries then the opposite, and giving out the important good first pass.
The midfield core is composed of Patrice Bernier and Felipe Martins. Positioned as holding midfielders, both will be asked to also provide offence and with them Davy Arnaud, the switch hitter (Center Forward and Offensive Midfielder) and Justin Mapp. One flaw in the Montreal's game is its lack of speed on the side via the midfield but in a 4-4-2, the offensive support of your full backs/outside backs is key.
You might see the speedy Sanna Nyassi play more of a wide right midfielder role and let Davy Arnaud bring some physical impact next to Justin Braun. The young Salt Lake City native is still trying to find his game with some imprecise ball control but with constant pressing and availability to his partners.
The squad as a whole will play hard, will play strong defence but will not just stay static out of fear. It is a team that seems going towards ball possession and quick distribution. Expansion? Yes... Naïve? Not really ...Confident as a group? Totally
Head Coach Jesse Marsch was a hard nosed player and is a disciple of Bob Bradley. Does the team more mirrors his physical style based on athletic ability or is there technical ability on the roster.
Jesse Marsch had roles on his mind when he took the reigns of the team that seems to have included a technical sound team with ball control that has a physical-based attitude to get the ball back. As much as he is Bob Bradley's Padawan, Marsch has looked outside to get players that can fit his philosophy and the level of the MLS. He will expect his players to be hard nosed to his image but will let them have their own identity while still being part of the collective vision of the team, to the team for the team.
Technical ability without the physical aspect does not do much and vice versa, the delicate balance that all coaches and teams look for is the real challenge.
What is the team's and fan's expectations for year one of the MLS edition of the Montreal Impact.
At the beginning, any fan would have and has gone the route of caution and realism for any expansion team in any sports. But quickly, a wind of positivism has started to pick up with a lot of positives from the team's first 2 games. Yes, 2 games are nothing in a 30+ game season but the team has quickly shown an identity of perseverance and teamwork; a standard that will set the bar higher than just ''Play but don't get creamed too much'' kind of hope.
The team's expects to be still in the playoff hunt later than many would have expected. Having spoken to Collen Warner during the preseason, he did mention that this group of players is stronger and solid for an expansion squad.
Is the team a unit already? Not yet. Is the squad doomed for losses and mediocrity? I don't think so. No matter what happens, the Montreal Impact is a well educated soccer fan that understands the long term process of building a soccer club while still managing expectations.
Massive Report thanks Sofiane and Mount Royal Soccer for taking the time to fill us in on tomorrow's visitors. You can see Massive Report's answers to Mount Royal Soccer's questions here.