One of the surprises of the MLS season has been the Montreal Impact, which was overhauled in the offseason and recovered from a horrible start to sit sixth in the Eastern Conference with five games to
Under first-year coach Remi Garde, the Impact started off with a 4-11-0 record but is 8-3-3 since then with statement wins in its last two matches, 3-0 over the New York Red
Bulls and 4-1 at the Philadelphia Union.
The Union victory coupled with D.C. United's 3-3 tie at home against the Red Bulls opened up a four-point lead on seventh-place United, which has
a game in hand, and make the Impact the best-positioned of MLS's three Canadian teams to make the playoffs.
Here are three keys to the Montreal turnaround:
1. Support for Piatti in
attack.Ignacio Piatti is having another great season -- 13 goals and 12 assists -- but he has gotten support from two first-year players, Saphir Taider (6 goals, 6 assists)
and Alejandro Silva (4 goals, 10 assists).
Taider, a French-born Algerian international, has adjusted quickly since coming to Montreal from Bologna in what was in effect a swap for
Swiss international Blerim Dzemaili, who returned to Bologna. Silva, who has four caps for Uruguay, is the latest signing from Argentina's Lanus after Diego Valeri, Lucas Melano
and Miguel Almiron.
2. French connection in the back. Garde had to rebuild the backline after Laurent Ciman was
traded to LAFC and offseason signing Zakaria Diallo suffered a knee injury in preseason. The backline now consists of three first-year Frenchmen -- Bacary Sagna at right back and Rod
Fanni and Rudy Camacho in the middle -- and Finn Jukka Raitala, who arrived in the Ciman trade, at left back.
Sagna, who started for runner-up France at Euro 2016
and turned 35 in February, scored his MLS goal for the Impact in the win over the Red Bulls.
3. Summer castoffs have
contributed.Quincy Amarikwa scored his first goal for the Impact since arriving from the San Jose Earthquakes on the last day of the summer transfer window. Micheal Azira
came over from Colorado, another floundering Western Conference team, and started in both the big wins over the Red Bulls and Union.
With NYCFC struggling, the Impact will be favored to
win its next game at home on Saturday, but Garde has already been around MLS long enough to know that a team's fortunes can change quickly.
"Right now," he said, "we're getting a lot of
praise. Probably too much. Yes, the team has improved a lot this year. But in this league, praise is useless when a couple of bad results can change everything."