The Montreal Impact’s first season has been one of great promise. Uneven results early in the season have given way to stronger performances as coach Jesse Marsch works to instill competitive grit in the expansion team.
MLSsoccer.com caught up with Impact beat writer Olivier Tremblay and asked him about Bernardo Corradi’s fantasy potential and the defensive personnel assembled by Jesse Marsch in his first season at the helm.
Fantasy Spotlight: Mike Fucito was recently traded away. Any ideas why he didn’t catch on with Jesse Marsch?
Olivier Tremblay: I have a feeling Fucito never quite wanted to end up here, which is sad really because I was very excited to hear about him and Neagle coming to Montreal back in February. Marsch has indicated that Fucito might have been a bit overwhelmed by the competition at his position, and there might be an element of truth to that.
Coming on as a sub, Andrew Wenger has been quite good, especially for a guy who divides his time between his studies and soccer, though he’ll be fully committed to the Impact starting in May.
WATCH: Corradi finishes at the back post
FS: Is Bernardo Corradi going to score the lion’s share of goals for the Impact?
Tremblay: It certainly does look this way at the moment. When the European transfer window opens, I won’t be so sure, though, because the Impact front office has made no secret of its intention to sign an attack-minded Designated Player. I think – and I’m not the only one – we’re talking about a forward here and depending on the style of play of said DP, Corradi could lose minutes.
Moreover, Corradi turned 36 last month. He looks like a fit guy, but there are certain stretches – the Impact’s month of May, for example – when he’ll need to lay down, rest and read a good book.
FS: Is Corradi the primary penalty-kick taker?
Tremblay: I would think so, though Montreal has conceded way more penalties than they have been given so the opportunities could be rare.
FS: It’s sometimes a slow process with expansion sides. Do you get the sense the Impact are a defense-first team or are they willing to take risks offensively?
Tremblay: The Impact are a let's-be-tough-to-play-against-first team, which can translate into penalties and bookings. Offensive risks will be kept at a minimum, with two central midfielders who try and protect their defense – not that it always works, of course.
It must be noted, though, that fullbacks are given license to push forward and that outside midfielders are asked to tuck in more. Players like Justin Mapp or Davy Arnaud can try and play that killer pass leading to a goal.
Jesse Marsch wants to lay the foundations of a solid team, a group of guys who will fit, who will play for each other. Then, later this season or in 2013, the flair will come.
FS: What’s going on with the defense? Do you think the Impact have the personnel to be a strong defensive team in 2012?
Tremblay: The big question mark here is Nelson Rivas. He’s getting closer and closer to coming back on the field for a competitive game, and if Matteo Ferrari’s words are any indication, the two of them could strike a very solid partnership. In the meantime, Shavar Thomas and Tyson Wahl have been doing OK, though Wahl is clearly more comfortable as a left back.
One notably positive aspect of this all is that Zarek Valentin’s confidence is improving at right back. Zarek won’t admit it, but I believe the US U-23s getting eliminated was eating at him for a time. That’s behind him now.
FS: How has Donovan Ricketts been performing in goal?
Tremblay: He’s been doing fine. Again, that New York game is hard on him, but he’s saved quite a few sure goals this season. He’ll play the majority of games this season and will probably hand the starter’s gloves to Greg Sutton or Evan Bush in Canadian Championship games.
One concern is that, as seen in New York, when the team’s defense switches off, it switches off big time, and Ricketts is left all alone protecting the team’s net.