Sneak Peek: Potent Impact seeks resiliency and depth

The oldest midfield in MLS nearly carried Montreal to the 2016 MLS Cup final, but a late-game collapse in Toronto enabled the home team to win the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals, 5-2, and take the series on aggregate, 7-5.
Opening day …
Projected XI – Bush; Duvall, Cabrera, Ciman, Oyongo; Donadel, Bernadello, Bernier; Piatti, Mancosu, Oduro.
Several offseason additions directly address the need for younger, springier legs in midfield to supplement the guile and experience of Hernan Bernadello (30), Marco Donadel (33) and captain Patrice Bernier, who will celebrate his 38th birthday in what he says is his last MLS season.

Montreal has acquired Adrian Arregui, 24, on loan from Argentine club Temperley. Louis Beyland-Goyette, 21, signed a Homegrown contract in November after playing 26 games as captain of the FC Montreal USL team. Shamit Shone, 19, was taken in the SuperDraft second round nine days after signing a Generation Adidas Canada contract, and he’s already got a year of pro experience under his belt with FC Edmonton of the NASL.

The Impact also swung a trade to get former Red Bulls right back Chris Duvall, 25. He can add some speed and tenacity to a back line that suffered at times from the reckless play of Hassoun Camara, who committed 44 fouls. On the other corner, Ambroise Oyongo returns from the Africa Cup of Nations with a championship medal won by Cameroon, which should do wonders for his confidence.

If the Impact can attain any kind of consistent resiliency, it can finish higher than fifth as it did last year. Its fearsome front three of Ignacio Piatti, Matteo Mancosu, and Dominic Oduro can get goals against just about anybody, particularly on the break, but its porosity gave keeper Evan Bush too much work. He made 101 saves and still conceded a goal and a half (1.52) per game. It took a few Herculean efforts for him to notch six shutouts.

The team’s need for added depth has prompted head coach Mauro Biello to give his backups a lot of playing time deep into the preseason. In a 2-2 tie with Philadelphia on Wednesday, the Impact erased 1-0 and 2-1 deficits with goals by SuperDraft pick Nick DePuy and 2014 Homegrown signing Anthony Jackson-Hamel, respectively. DePuy played the full game, Jackson-Hamel came on at halftime and scored in the final minute.

Jackson-Hamel had also scored in the final minute of the team’s previous game against D.C. United. He tacked on the final goal of a 4-2 win after Piatti, Mancosu and Odoro bagged one apiece.

The wild card is attacker Andres Romero, who sat out the entire 2016 season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee at the tail end of the 2015 season. Scorer of 12 goals in his first three MLS seasons (starting in 2013), he has been held out of preseason games heading into the final one Saturday against Tampa Bay. He can play anywhere on the front line or slide in behind the forwards.

“Last year was a great year for the team,” Romero told The Canadian Press. “I was happy because they deserved it and I’m looking forward to doing the same this year.”
Who’s in …
GOALKEEPERS: None. DEFENDERS: Chris Duvall (NY Red Bulls, Trade via Minnesota United). MIDFIELDERS: Adrian Arregui (Temperley/ARG, Loan), Louis Beland-Goyette (FC Montreal, USL Signing), Shamit Shome (FC Edmonton, SuperDraft), Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla (FC Montreal, Homegrown). FORWARDS: Nick DePuy (UC Santa Barbara, SuperDraft).
Who’s out …
GOALKEEPERS:  None. DEFENDERS: Amadou Dia, Danny Toia (Orlando City, Trade via Atlanta United). MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Bekker (San Francisco Deltas, Free Agent), Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare, Lucas Ontivero (Universidad de Chile/CHL, Free Agent), Harry Shipp (Seattle Sounders, Trade), Johan Venegas (Minnesota United, Trade). FORWARDS: Didier Drogba, Romario Williams (Atlanta United, Trade).
First five games …
March 4 – at San Jose Earthquakes
March 11 – Seattle Sounders
March 18 –- at New York City FC.
April 1 – at Chicago Fire
April 7 -- at L.A. Galaxy
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